He Defined ‘Sustained Leadership’: Michael L. Tarnopol, W’58

At a time when most people start to slow down, Michael Tarnopol decided to try his hand at a difficult and dangerous sport—polo. That was in 1979, when Tarnopol—known familiarly as Mickey—was 42 years old.

But for this global business leader, who was vice chairman of the International Banking Division of Bear, Stearns & Co., his love of polo began to blossom when he worked as a stable boy as a young man. Many years later Tarnopol rediscovered his interest in horses through his daughter, Lisa, C’85, a top junior equestrian. He went on to form his own polo team, sponsored by Revlon, and won every major tournament in the U.S., except for the U.S. Open Polo Championship. He retired from the sport in 1998 at age 61.

His success on the polo field was an extension of the exceptional leadership skills he wielded professionally and in service of philanthropy. Tarnopol contributed to Bear Stearns’ success as one of the leading U.S. securities trading, investment banking, and brokerage firms, serving an elite clientele.

He also made an indelible mark on Wharton and Penn. Tarnopol was Co-Chair of Wharton’s Campaign for Sustained Leadership, the most successful business school campaign in history, as well as a long-time member of the School’s Board of Overseers. He earned the Distinguished Service Award from the Wharton Alumni Association in 1997 and the Dean’s Medal in 2003. In addition, he was Vice Chair of Penn’s Board of Trustees and founded the Penn Club of New York, along with his wife, Lynne, CW’60.

Tarnopol’s other civic and professional leadership positions were extensive, including service on the boards of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and CaPCURE, which was founded by Michael Milken, WG’70. Tarnopol was the 1996 recipient of the American Jewish Committee’s Herbert H. Lehman Human Relations Award. Tarnopol died in 2005.

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