New College, Sarasota, image by RTC1 via FlickrBy Bob Andelman
One year of sending his son to the University of Miami and Stephen Sensoli’s father was fed up.
“I’m glad you’re having fun,” he said of Stephen’s entertaining freshman year at one of the mid-70s’ predominant party schools, “but this doesn’t make sense.”
And that’s how Sensoli (’80) found himself enrolled at New College in 1977.
“I wanted to stay in Florida and go to a good college. New College was, and hopefully still is, a place where people who didn’t fit in in other places could go. That’s the way I was. I didn’t have time to deal with the realities of a typical school. New College allowed me to focus on what I thought – at the time – was important to my future career.”
That career was destined be as an entrepreneur, as Sensoli went on to earn an MBA from the University of Michigan and build a reputation for himself as a business development expert in the pharmaceuticals industry. He worked for Leeco Diagnostics, a Michigan-based biotech company, for 10 years, including time spent in China setting up a joint venture for his employer.
When he returned to Michigan, the company announced a joint venture with Johnson & Johnson and Sensoli was asked to run the startup, which produced the Fact-PlusTM home pregnancy test and a Strep A home diagnostic test. “I got a reputation in Southeast Michigan as someone who could grow things.”
GeneWorks was one of several companies he helped start. During his six years as CEO, the company raised $20 million and did deals with nine biotech and pharmaceutical companies.
“We genetically engineered chickens to lay eggs with pharmaceutical protein in the egg whites,” Sensoli explains. “That was a really cool company with a lot of super-smart people. At least 22 of the 25 employees had masters or higher degrees. We used to have great Trivial Pursuit parties. There was almost no topic where you could stump the crowd.”
Today, Sensoli commutes weekly from his home in Plymouth, Michigan, to his position as director of global business development with Banner Pharmacaps in High Point, NC.
Sensoli, 49, a married father of two teens, well remembers the culture shock of landing at New College from Miami. “As one of the smartest and highest ranking kids from my high school, going to New College – where everybody was highest ranked – was humbling. But that was good, too. It’s a great place to build a lot of character and independence. It really prepares you for the world when you get out of that. You are truly responsible for building your own curriculum and accomplishing it. It prepares you for the business world and life.”
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Copyright 2009 by Bob Andelman