Arts enthusiast

Bank of America’s Bob Doherty is a guiding force in emboldening Newark and NJPAC.


When the notion of NJPAC was first floated by then-Governor Tom Kean 30 years ago, Bob Doherty — now Bank of America New Jersey market president — was only at the beginning of his career in finance.


Nevertheless, you could certainly say he had a front-row seat for NJPAC’s big debut.


“I was working in banking, I worked right on Broad Street and I watched the whole of NJPAC go up, right from the ground. It was really exciting,” he recalls.


It was, he remembers, a time of both anticipation and caution among those who spent their working lives in the city, and had enormous hopes for how NJPAC might revitalize its downtown.


“I was both excited and a little bit worried — I mean, would audiences come into Newark? Would it get that foot traffic that’s so important?


“But then I saw that the team they put together was so strong, and the offerings they put together were so compelling that — well, you could see that NJPAC was full, all the time! It really drove a lot of people to rediscover Newark. And it provided access to the arts for a big population in Newark that needed it,” he says.


Watching NJPAC rise up from idea to institution was just one of the things that inspired Doherty to become a leader in supporting the Arts Center and guiding it into its third decade. As the New Jersey State President of Bank of America, he oversees the bank’s sponsorship of two of NJPAC’s signature series: The Bank of America Classical Series, which this season boasts appearances by such greats as Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Bell, and the Bank of America Headliner Series – a new, diverse lineup of all-stars that ranges from Ringo Starr to six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald.


He also provides guidance to the Arts Center by sitting on its Board of Directors, and supports its programs with his own personal philanthropy.


There are many reasons for his commitment to NJPAC, Doherty says. 


“Look, first of all, it’s really a fun place to go!” he says, laughing. “I try to get there with my kids a lot. It’s a way for me to connect with my family. And it’s just fun to go to the events, to run into people you know, and to see the tremendous offerings.”


He says he tends to take in concerts with his three now-grown sons, and also enjoys the New Jersey Speakers Series – the lecture program that this year will include everyone from travel guru Rick Steves to President Bill Clinton.


Doherty’s support for the Arts Center is just one aspect of his lifelong devotion to New Jersey and its institutions. Even as he’s built his career at Bank of America, Doherty has devoted time to boosting the Garden State’s reputation as an exceptional place to do business. He was one of the 15 founding members of Choose New Jersey, a nonprofit created to attract new businesses to the state, and prompt companies already here to expand their operations.


And as of this past summer, he was also named Chairman of the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, a group he’s been active with for more than a decade.


It helps that he’s a lifelong New Jersey resident (he lives in Chatham) who’s full-throated in his enthusiasm for his home – right down to its much-maligned transportation system.


“Oh my goodness, New Jersey has so much going for it!” he says.


“We have this world-class, highly educated population, we have the busiest port in the nation, we’re located in the middle of a huge concentration of wealth. We have more scientists per square mile than any other place in the country, and we have this amazing transportation network – I mean, yes, we’re working on it, we gotta fill those potholes and do other repairs. But it’s still an amazing transportation network. We have a lot to brag about in New Jersey.”


Other institutions Doherty has thrown his support behind include the Newark Museum, the Community Foundation of New Jersey and the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, where’s he’s been on the board for a decade. That group, he notes, distributes roughly 50 million pounds of food a year, throughout the state.


“And the need is growing – this is an expensive place to live, people are working hard trying to keep heads above water. Sometimes they’re paying rent rather than paying for food. We can’t have them making that decision,” he says.


All of Doherty’s extracurricular commitments benefit from his exceptional business sense, says John Schreiber, NJPAC’s President and CEO.


“Bob Doherty is a quiet yet devastatingly effective force for good,” Schreiber says.


“He’s deeply committed to advancing communities, and his experience as an effective non-profit leader is unique in the state. From the Chamber of Commerce to the FoodBank to the Newark Museum to the Arts Center, his wisdom and his counsel are welcome, and counted on, in more places than one could imagine.”


But Doherty says that from his perspective, support of the arts and other nonprofits just makes good business sense.


At Bank of America, “we really do believe the arts enrich the communities we’re doing business in. We think they’re important in stabilizing our cities and creating that economic opportunity. So an organization like NJPAC, which contributes so much to stabilization and economic development, fits right into that,” he says.


“And we just love the arts — they celebrate the past and they inspire the future. It’s very important to us philanthropically.”


Nov. 28, 2017