Leadership Spotlight: Phil Darivoff, W’79, WG’85

By Elisa Ludwig

The medieval rabbi and philosopher Maimonides wrote that we might anticipate charity by preventing poverty. Teaching someone a trade, for example, can prevent poverty and, in turn, the need for charity.

For Phil Darivoff (W’79, WG ’85), whose grandparents came to America from Russian and Eastern Europe to find greater opportunities for his generation, these words have personal significance. Indeed, they are a guiding principle in his professional and philanthropic life.

“I often think about what we Wharton graduates do when we succeed, and the leveraged contribution that a successful business person can make to our society,” says Darivoff. A partner and managing director at Goldman Sachs, Darivoff has made his own contributions through a consistent and active commitment to Wharton.

Darivoff was himself introduced to Wharton by a likeminded alumnus, Morris Nunes, C’70. Nunes encountered the teenage Darivoff in a Fairfax, VA, hardware store and suggested that he consider applying to Wharton. Darivoff took this passing advice to heart, and enrolled in 1975. As an undergraduate, he met his wife, Betsy Marks Darivoff, C’79, discovered a passion for finance and decided to pursue his MBA. “Wharton was absolutely a transforming opportunity for me,” Darivoff says.

After graduation, Darivoff joined Goldman Sachs as an associate in mortgage securities, a job he believes he would not have been offered without his Wharton degree. “When I came into the firm I understood corporate strategy, which allowed me to think more like a senior executive than a technician,” he says. Two years in, he was promoted to vice president. Today, in addition to his roles as partner and managing director, Darivoff is chairman of credit capital markets.

Darivoff’s interest in philanthropy developed in tandem with his career. “I got to a point where I looked back and reflected on the initial sacrifices of my parents and grandparents and the great opportunity I had been given to go to Penn and Wharton,” he says. Darivoff has been offering the same opportunities to others by leading Goldman Sachs’ recruitment effort at Wharton for nearly a decade. He currently sits on Wharton’s Board of Overseers and serves as a co-chair for the 20th reunion of his MBA class.

In addition, the Darivoffs have recently honored their grandparents by naming a study room in their honor in Jon M. Huntsman Hall and endowing the Rebecca and Morris Marks Professorship in accounting. Darivoff sees all of this as part of a larger effort to “anticipate charity” and encourage others in the business community to give back. “It is difficult to repay the people who have helped you, except by honoring them in some way, and in doing so, you hope you can also help others.”

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