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Karen Siciliano

BA 1983, Communication

President, Siciliano Landscape Company, LLC, Red Bank, NJ

September 11, 2001, changed Karen Siciliano’s life. Then the vice president of JP Morgan and Chase Manhattan Bank in Mortgage Backed Securities, Siciliano was working on Wall Street that terrible morning, and evacuated through a flurry of singed paper. Her instinct was to head for the family home in New Jersey, and she watched the South Tower of the World Trade Center fall as the ferry she boarded pulled away.

She lost colleagues and friends that day, which hastened her decision to change her own course in life. Her father had asked her six months earlier if she’d like to run the family-owned landscaping business. After a brief return to Wall Street, she agreed to her father’s request. She’s now the owner and president of Siciliano Landscape Company in Red Bank, New Jersey, providing landscape design, installation, and maintenance for both commercial and residential clients.

Siciliano places great emphasis on giving back to her community—whether her time, business acumen, or landscape services. (More on that follows in her own words.) And it’s that combination of dedication to her work and the people around her that motivates her.  “It’s great to live in an area I love, do exceptional work, and be of service to others through my success,” she notes. “I am becoming more of my authentic self every day and strive to elevate the awareness and circumstance of others.”

Purdue Influences

Being the first female student body president in Purdue’s history was one of the best experiences I could have hoped for while at Purdue. It honed my leadership skills, improved my public speaking abilities, and gave me an appetite for service and making a positive difference in people’s lives. I am excited about the building of Purdue’s Center for Student Excellence and Leadership and will be donating to the naming of the student collaboration lounge in the center of that very exciting project.

Purdue Memories

My favorite Purdue memory was my first Purdue memory, because it set a tone for the rest of my college career. A political science advisor who I met with when visiting campus to consider attending Purdue spotted me on the bustling campus mall one year later during my first week as a freshman. She smiled at me and said, “Hello Karen, It’s nice to see you again.” In that moment, a campus of 34,000 shrunk in size before my very eyes and became a comfortable and welcoming place in which to excel.

Purdue Now

Purdue is a family that believes you can do anything you put your mind to and is always here to help you grow and celebrate your successes. I learn something every time I return to campus. I am proud of our rich tradition and our reputation around the world. My brother, sister, and brother-in-law followed me to Purdue from New Jersey and for two years we were all students on campus together. My brother is still at Purdue as a professor of landscape architecture.

Greatest Achievement

After an 18-year career on Wall Street, I left the finance industry in downtown Manhattan as a result of the tragedies on 9-11. I lost a lot of friends that day, as well as the desire to continue my Wall Street career. I turned homeward across the Hudson and took the helm of our family’s third-generation landscape company. Our 78-year-old business has quadrupled in size over the past 10 years, and many of our clients are titans of industry who have partnered with me for philanthropic causes. Together we have expanded the children’s hospital and planted a garden for the breast center of Monmouth Medical Center, where I am a board member. We have created a popular outdoor patio garden and bar at our local theatre, of which I am a board member. We have given generously to the Visiting Nurses Association each year through our role as a show house designer. Having successfully transitioned from Wall Street to Main Street, I have the opportunity to lead a company and a community of service of which I am proud.

Living Person I Admire

My dog Geli is the living creature I most admire—she loves unconditionally, lives in the moment, and keeps it simple.

Idea of Perfect Happiness

My idea of happiness is the beach and a good book, breaking 90 on the golf course, traveling the world, and sharing memories and comfort with those I love.

What I’m Reading

The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. It speaks to the surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results.

Profession I’d Like to Try

Someday I would like to be an author and write the great American novel from my beach house.