By Lucie Turkel
Entrepreneur and President of the Phi Beta Kappa Association of New York Neil St. Clair refers to himself as a “polymath with a purpose,” and between his multiple roles of being a founder, storyteller, and philanthropist, there couldn’t be a better way to describe the magna cum laude graduate of Boston University and ΦBK member.
Everything St. Clair does, from his professional endeavors to his personal life, is focused around one main idea: to remove fear from everyday life.
“The way I like to describe myself is that I’m just a high class Jersey boy,” St. Clair said. After being the second generation to attend college on his mother’s side, St. Clair started his professional life as a television journalist before making the jump to entrepreneur in the media and insurance/technology spaces. St. Clair especially focuses on his social impact work, which he sees as taking two different trajectories, the first one being that he works with multi-billion dollar families or venture founders to create capitalist projects with heart.
“I’m a huge believer in what I call ‘third sectorism,’ which is the convergence of government, philanthropy, and private sector efforts together to drive forward social change and social good,” St. Clair said. “In true millennial fashion, I’ve only really taken on efforts where there’s a conscience injected into capitalism and into the work we’re doing.”
The second trajectory is the social impact work St. Clair does on his own, mainly through NES Impact, his own management consulting business, and the St. Clair Family Foundation, his family’s personal foundation.
Much of the recent work St. Clair has done focused on child sexual abuse prevention. Working alongside the daughter of the founding family of investment bank AllianceBernstein, St. Clair served as President and Chief Operating Officer of the Child Safety Pledge, an organization whose chief mission is to raise awareness and encourage organizations to adopt best practices against child sexual abuse.
“I actually created in conjunction with the daughter of the AllianceBerstein family the first ever modality and investment policy statement and thesis around child sexual abuse prevention,” St. Clair explained in regard to his work with the organization. “We created methods to invest in public equities and fixed incomes, as well as in private markets, so things like venture capital and private equity. We were actually able to influence over $150 million of private capital to invest using that thesis.”
Overall, St. Clair’s work looks at ways money can be used to influence social change. He believes that his time as both a member and president of a ΦBK association has not only informed and broadened his world view but has made a significant impact on the work he does.
“We’ve become much more of a specialist society rather than one based on the broad liberal arts education that was valued historically,” St. Clair said. “And I think what ΦBK does so well is it forces us, or rather encourages us, to be exposed to those larger realms of thinking that allow us to reason by analogy.”
“ΦBK has done an immense amount to reinform and reinforce the way I think about ideas, and intersectionality, and the interdisciplinary nature of the world as the way we drive things forward. I again very much encourage us all not to be specialists (which doesn’t mean don’t have an expertise), but to allow yourself to be very much broad-based, liberal in your thinking and exposure to ideas and to really welcome in competing or previously segregated elements of knowledge. You’d be amazed at how much it can inform the work you’re doing.”
To find out more about St. Clair, visit his website at neilstclair.com.
Lucie Turkel is a senior at the University of Connecticut pursuing an individualized major in comparative literary and cultural studies and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in May 2020. UConn is home to the Epsilon of Connecticut chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.