Nick Bordieri dedicates this Alum of the Month to his lifelong friend and classmate, the late Charles F. (Chuck) Gulden '79, P'12. Chuck was a beloved member of the Class of 1979, and through his generosity of spirit, he made many strong friendships in Lakeville that lasted over the decades since graduation. As President of The Hotchkiss Fund and a trustee at the time of his death last June, Chuck Gulden continued to show his unwavering support for the School. A dedicated alumni volunteer, he always answered the call to work on behalf of Hotchkiss.
Nicholas A. "Nick" Bordieri '79 is CEO and President of MERCYworldwide, a global nonprofit organization with more than 5,000 volunteers and branches in 50-plus cities on six continents, helping those less fortunate through humanitarian service projects. Bordieri has served in this capacity since 2015, drawing on his 25 years of experience in global business leadership, 20 of which were spent working for Nike in executive and leadership roles.
Having entered Hotchkiss in 1978 for a post-graduate year, Bordieri explains, "I went to Xavier High School in Middletown, CT, and had my sights set on a small Ivy League College. But I didn't get into the schools I had in mind, so when someone suggested a post-graduate year at Hotchkiss, I did some research, applied, and was accepted. This proved to be a life-altering choice, which allowed me to not only mature personally and grow academically, but also offered me a plethora of experiences and opportunities." One of these opportunities was given by a classmate, Erica Walker Mitchell, when her family invited Bordieri to travel to Malaysia to spend a summer working on an oil rig in the South China Sea. "I had led a fairly insular life, with limited exposure to the world outside of the borders of Connecticut; I didn't even know where Malaysia was. I will never forget looking out the window of the plane, where I saw the most amazing lush green tropical rain forests and mountains."
Bordieri went on to Trinity College in Hartford following Hotchkiss and after two years, took a gap year. "I returned to Malaysia to work once again on an off-shore oil rig. For a naïve teenager from a small town in Connecticut, it was a time of testing. On the oil rig, I was a boy among men - with heavy machinery, long hours, and tight timelines. It was very dangerous, no-nonsense work. Heavy rains and powerful winds during monsoon season added to the danger." The work cycle was two weeks on and two weeks off. During the two weeks off Bordieri would travel. In addition to Malaysia and Singapore, he had the opportunity to visit Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, to name a few. While on the oil rig he was exposed to ethnic diversity, with Malaysian, Chinese, Indian, and Philippine workers. "It was here that I personally witnessed intense racial tensions. As I traveled, I continued to learn about other cultures, languages, religions, and best of all, incredible food. It was also my introduction to people living in true poverty, which has stayed with me. Over time I began to realize that people are people. I gained a love, respect, and appreciation for people regardless of their background, nationality, culture, and religion, which has inspired my life's work to this day." Bordieri returned to Trinity with a newfound passion and pursued international studies.
Back at Trinity, Bordieri designed his own major, which included intercultural studies, with a special focus on China. He returned to Asia after college and established three goals: to start his own business or work for an international company, to master Mandarin Chinese, and to study martial arts. "I continued my study of Mandarin Chinese at an intensive summer language program in Beijing and became fluent. Having always had a bit of a spiritual mindset, I was drawn to the martial arts by the physical, disciplinary, and philosophical dimensions of that activity. Studying the martial arts where they originated, in Asia, I eventually received a black belt." His third goal was achieved when he was approached by Nike with an offer to work in Taiwan, which he gladly accepted.
During his 20-year career at Nike, Bordieri was assigned to various parts of the world in several leadership positions, including General Manager - Equipment Division, General Manager - South America Footwear Sourcing, Supply Chain Sourcing Manager, and Senior Development Manager. Working across Nike's complex matrix organization, he was charged with building relationships with Nike leaders, sub-contracted factories, and vendors, playing a significant role in the firm's global development and growth. He created a long-term vision, working around critical strategic goals including revenues, margins, demand creation, market share, and consumer awareness.
While attending training in a new cutting-edge computer technology - email! - at Nike's world headquarters in Portland, OR, Bordieri met his future wife, Denise Martus. The couple married in 1994 and the next day departed for Argentina to work for Nike in South America. After three years Bordieri returned to Asia, before his family repatriated back to Nike's headquarters in Portland in 2000. Although blessed with two daughters and a successful career, he felt the demands of life were beginning to take a toll on his marriage and family. At this important juncture in his life, Bordieri turned to God. Reprioritizing his relationships, he found a new hope and purpose.
Continuing his spiritual journey, Bordieri left his long career at Nike and moved his family to Los Angeles to further his pro bono work for MERCYworldwide. In L.A., Bordieri continued working in the corporate sector, taking his unique skill set to Mattel. There, one of his biggest achievements was leading a corporate strategy initiative that reestablished corporate and public trust in Mattel following historic recalls in 2007 involving lead in toys from China. "It was an extremely difficult time for the company and the toy industry overall. I loved the challenge of working across government, corporate, and consumer sectors and directly with retailers to rebuild consumer and corporate confidence in the Mattel brand."
In 2015 Bordieri left the traditional corporate sector to devote his energies full-time to serving people and saving lives, which is the mission for MERCYworldwide. MERCY focuses on three main areas: 1. Relief - The Good Samaritan Initiative (disaster and emergency preparedness and training); 2. Care - Humanitarian Service Projects (more than 700 service projects completed since the organization was established); and 3. Youth (service projects devoted to improving the lives of children). One of MERCY's greatest assets is the ever-growing base of 5,000 dedicated and spirited volunteers, called MERCY Ambassadors, who serve their communities around the world.
With projects too numerous to list, Bordieri shared one recent example that stood out to him. "In 2017 I had the opportunity to return to the Philippines, with 1000 MERCY Ambassadors from around the globe. We assembled as a family to care for under-privileged children in a very poor community, called Welfareville, on the outskirts of Manila. Many residents of Welfareville earn $2-3 per day and live in small (10 feet by 10 feet) tin, plywood, or cardboard homes.
"Much to our surprise, when we arrived in Welfareville, the streets were lined with thousands of cheering local residents, as the community was so excited that we had come from around the world to serve their children! The mayor graciously welcomed us and presented us with the key to the city.
"The day started with 300 children from the most impoverished families receiving medical and dental attention. Following the checkups, MERCY Ambassadors entertained the kids. Professional dancers from New York City dazzled them, the singers moved them, and the Filipino martial arts performances excited them. We played games and sang songs together, before serving them their favorite Filipino meal, Jollibee. As we closed out the day, we presented each child with a MERCY backpack filled with school supplies and the parents with food for their families.
"I will always remember the laughter and the smiles on the children's faces. We came to serve, but it seemed that we had received so much more. This experience helped me to understand that the world speaks one universal language: love and compassion. When we look to meet the needs of others, to lend a helping hand - what I consider Compassion in Action - boundaries are removed, and the world gets a little friendlier."
Bordieri travels frequently to work with people in need, doing what he loves. He credits Hotchkiss for putting him on this path. "At Hotchkiss, I was exposed to so many wonderful people (Chuck Gulden being one), new languages, and different ways of life, which set me on a journey of self-discovery and awareness. I consider myself truly blessed to have discovered the gift of service, to live my passion alongside my wife, Denise, and to be among a spirited family of MERCY Ambassadors worldwide who are inspired to do likewise."
To learn more about MERCYworldwide, visit: www.mercyworldwide.org.