1981 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"The cornerstone of leadership is defined by integrity. Integrity is not a 90% thing, it’s not a 95% thing—you either have it or you don’t."
Born in Philadelphia in 1920, Peter Scotese never knew his father, who died that same year. His mother struggled to support her four children but finally, when he was eight, enrolled him in Girard College, a school for orphaned boys. At Girard, he washed dishes, cleaned buildings and waited tables. When he graduated from high school, he was near the top of his class and a member of the National Honor Society.
After graduation, Scotese worked in real estate and insurance while studying accounting and business administration at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He did bookkeeping and worked part time in a restaurant to help support his mother and sister.
Following service in World War II, during which he won the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts, Scotese began a career in textiles. He started at Indian Head Mills of New York, and then worked for the Milwaukee Boston Store Division of Federated Department Stores. Later, he joined Springs Industries, Inc., one of the nation's largest manufacturers of finished fabrics and home furnishings products. In 1969, Scotese became Springs' first non-family president in the history of the company, which was organized in 1887. During Scotese's 12-year tenure as president and chief executive officer, Springs' sales tripled and earnings from continuing operations more than quadrupled. In 1983, he was named Textile Man of the Year by the textile section of the New York Board of Trade.
In advising those who will lead companies in the future, Scotese says, "I also think that there's going to have to be more structure in our society, more discipline. Therefore, I think business leaders would be well-advised to spend much more time trying to have an influence on the political system."
The greatest satisfaction that's come from his leadership roles, he says, is to know that "there were many people over time who reached personal heights that were far greater than they thought possible-and blamed it on me! The greatest rewards of my life have been in knowing that this has happened."