By Mark Vruno
When people say that Dan Brutto worked himself through school, they mean it quite literally. “I am a hard worker,” the Elmwood Park native admits. “That’s the way we were raised,” he says of his two younger brothers (also Friars) and sister, who went to Trinity. “We were brought up that our parents got us through [financially] a good high school, but college was on us.”
So, the eldest Brutto child caddied for six years at Oak Park Country Club. “I won my first set of used clubs when I was 14,” he fondly recalls. “I was like, ‘You’re giving these to me? You mean I don’t have to buy them?” To “build up funds,” he also worked at Armanetti’s liquor store. When he was 18, Dan started taking the Lake Street elevated train to Loyola University by day and was loading trucks at the UPS Franklin Park facility at night. Thirty-eight years later he retired from the same company: as President of UPS International and former Senior Vice President of United Parcel Service, Inc.
Brutto worked himself up the varied rungs of the metaphorical corporate ladder. Between his time at Fenwick and Loyola, he worked nights “primarily to pay my way through college. It was a union job that paid well,” he says of his 5-10 p.m. shift. It was difficult, but his high-school experiences had prepared him well, Brutto notes. “Fenwick prepares its students for competition,” he says matter-of-factly. No offense to the Jesuits, but college at “Loyola was easier,” he adds.
After two years on the job at UPS, Brutto became a part-time supervisor with responsibility for 15 to 20 employees – package loaders, unloaders and sorters. “That’s when my Fenwick education really came into play,” he stresses, citing former Speech Teacher Fr. Jim Motl, O.P., M.A., as one of the five most inspirational people in his life. “Fr. Motl was big on using the proper inflection of voice to communicate with a given group,” the attentive student recalls. “The skills I learned in his classes have served me well over the years in business as well as in my personal life.”
The UPS management team knew what it saw in this self-motivated, driven kid from the Catholic school. They identified young Dan as a high-potential management candidate and wanted to continue grooming him for increasing managerial responsibilities, but his father wasn’t so sure. “He owned a small-business accounting firm with his brother and sister. Back then you had to be a driver before you could go into full-time management at UPS. That’s the way it was. After [my] four years of college and getting a Business Administration degree from Loyola, my dad said, ‘I don’t know, Dan. Why would you want to drive a truck?’”
But UPS was a fast-growing company, and a mentor on the inside helped Brutto to see the bigger picture. He was promoted – training people how to drive tractor trailers on a 12-hour (9-9) shift. “I went to UPS School to do that,” he laughs. He also asked the Human Resources Department how the tuition-reimbursement program worked. When they told him he could get a company-paid MBA by maintaining a “C” average, well it was even more awesome than the free golf clubs at the OPCC caddy shack. In his spare time he enrolled at Northwestern, “but the commute was too much” so he opted instead for the Keller Graduate School of Management and set off on an international finance track. “The education at Keller was great because courses were taught by practitioners in the field, not by academes. The guys who founded the school required a minimum of 10 years of professional experience.”
Brutto’s UPS ascension continued at the company’s O’Hare Airport operation, then in the Engineering Department. “One day a Divisional Controller asks me, ‘Dan, why are you still working in Operations?’” The UPS Finance & Accounting Department was located in Bloomingdale, IL, which was Brutto's next stop. The first relocation as a District Controller came in 1985. One of the his two daughters had been born before the move, “and my wife [Lisa] was pregnant” with what would be their second daughter. (The couple, married for 32 years and residing in Atlanta, now is blessed with two grandchildren.)
After that, his career was a blur. Brutto toggled between UPS’s finance and operations departments and also served in other areas with increasing levels of responsibility, including information systems, marketing and business development. His journey of four decades was capped by seven years of global jet-setting: Between 2006 and 2013 he was involved with acquisitions in Europe and the Far East, trying to remember which time zone he was in. “In an average year, I’d have 40 countries punched on my passport,” he reports.
Brutto now serves as Chairman of Radial, Inc., a global fulfillment, customer care and omnichannel technology firm. He also is a director on the boards of Illinois Tool Works (ITW), Sysco and UNICEF. Previously, he served on the boards of the UPS Foundation, the US-China Business Council, the Guangdong Economic Council and the Turkey Economic Advisory Council, and was a delegate to the World Economic Forum.
Because he worked so much, Dan had to “settle” for intramural sports as a Fenwick student. He was involved in IM hockey and baseball and remembers playing flag football at a park close to school. “IM sports were great because they didn’t require a super commitment and there was still the camaraderie aspect.”
It was appropriate to talk and socialize on the court or field but not so much in the classroom, of course. “We were pushed to learn at Fenwick,” Brutto comments, “and discipline was always coupled into the equation. I spent a lot of time in JUG [Judgment Under God, the acronym for detention] for crossing the line,” he confesses, adding that “I was a ‘C’ student partly because I screwed around too much.”
Still, on a recent visit back to campus, he reminisced about revered Latin Teacher Fr. Joseph Hren, O.P., M.A., and some of his other instructors at Fenwick. “The foundation of rigorous discipline, time management, communication and learning” was built on Washington Blvd. in Oak Park, Brutto concluded while sitting at a desk in one of his old classrooms.