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Distinguished Alumnus in Business
Gary John Spulak MBA ’80
As president of Embraer Aircraft Holding, Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Brazil’s Embraer, one of the largest aircraft manufacturers in the world, Gary Spulak is a “firm believer in the 80/20 rule – spending 80 percent of one’s efforts on the 20 percent that makes a difference.” Something which is “easy enough to say, but real success depends on what one decides is in the 20 percent,” he explains.
"Success in business and life in general starts with the ability each day to be organized, in addition to knowing your priorities at any given point in time."
Fortunately, the 80/20 rule seems to have worked well for Spulak, who began his career with Embraer in 1983 as vice president of product support and information technology, where he developed and directed the infrastructure to support the company’s successful Bandeirante and Brasilia commercial aircraft in North America.
In 1991 he became executive vice president, assuming additional responsibilities for customer technical assistance, training and administrative operations. In 1995, Spulak assumed responsibility for supporting the industrial and financial operations of Embraer, developing financing alternatives and fundraising. He was also responsible for customer sales finance and directed the creation of structures to support regional jet sales to airlines in North America and Europe.
One of the rewards of working in the aerospace industry, according to Spulak, who serves on the Aerospace Industry Association’s Board of Governors, is that it tends to move at a quick pace and one day is rarely the same as the next.
“Every day at Embraer brings new challenges because the aerospace market is very unique,” he says. “The needs of our customers are constantly changing because of a variety of factors, many outside of their control.”
Another benefit of working with Embraer, according to Spulak, has been the opportunity to get to know the people of Brazil. “It’s a wonderful, exciting and diverse country filled with people who are genuine, passionate, work hard, love life and family, and know how to celebrate,” he says. “It is far from just being a great place to enjoy soccer and the beach.”
Born in New York City to first-generation Americans, a strong work ethic is something that Spulak came to appreciate as a child hearing stories of his grandparents’ journeys to America. “My grandparents all were European immigrants (Ukrainian and Italian) who came to New York at a very early age alone, embracing our country as their own and learning the language and culture,” Spulak says. “They were very brave, and I am very proud of them and their accomplishments.”
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Miami and an MBA from Barry, Spulak began his professional career with Federated Department Stores developing cross division IT solutions.
He later joined the accounting firm Price Waterhouse as a management consultant, specializing in manufacturing, industrial engineering, retailing, distribution and real estate.
When not meeting the challenges of the aerospace industry or spending time with his family, Spulak devotes time “to mentoring young people as they learn about life and work”. He also enjoys coaching kids in baseball, basketball and football.