Nugent honors friendship with Brother Blank through scholarship

Wed, 10/20/2010 (All day)
Nugent and Blank

There is nothing like a friend to be there for you.

John Nugent ’79 certainly believes that. And for him, one friend from his days spent at Spring Hill College was always there and helped keep him on track: Brother Ferrell Blank, S.J.

The two friends talk frequently to this day.

Nugent decided to transfer to Spring Hill from St. Bonaventure University, a Franciscan liberal arts university in western New York. He said he needed to “make a change” in his life.

“I needed to go in a new direction,” Nugent said. “I needed to get my priorities straight and commit my life to a stronger relationship with God. I decided on Spring Hill to help me make those changes.”

A business major, Nugent arrived on the Hill in 1978 and headed for his room that was assigned in Walsh Hall. That’s where he first met Brother Blank, who lived on his floor and always had an open door for students to come by and talk.

Brother Blank arrived at Spring Hill in 1961 and by 1979 had become the man who kept the College humming – the “go-to guy” for important maintenance issues, plumbing, heating and cooling, refrigeration, electricity and even making sure all the locks and keys worked properly. He was a certified plant engineer and was named Engineer of the Year in Mobile in 1972-73. Today, at age 74, he’s still on the go, managing the Jesuit villa in Perdido Bay, staying active with the Knights of Columbus, and helping out the Jesuit community and campus regularly. Blank celebrated his 50th year as a Jesuit in 2006.

“We became fast friends,” Nugent said. “He was always interested in others and made you feel more important than he was. He is a humble, servant-oriented man.”

“Brother Blank helped to ground me, make me a better person and to look at my life in a new way, “ Nugent added.

“John is a good person, knows how to make decisions well, and is easygoing in many ways,” Blank said. “We got along so well. John and some other guys would come by all the time. Sometimes we’d have some pretty good gumbo.”

To show his appreciation for his friend and mentor, Nugent has established a scholarship for needy students in honor of Brother Blank.

“He has had such a positive impact on the College, so many students, and certainly on me,” Nugent said. “Brother befriends so many people. His stories and his name need to always continue.”

Nugent’s life directions have been good ones. He is now president and CEO of Serena Software, a company in California that helps organizations orchestrate their application development, information technology and business processes. Serena ranks 131st on the list of the largest software companies in the world.

Prior to joining Serena Software, Nugent served as executive vice president of worldwide operations at SAP Business Objects, and before that served in executive and senior sales management positions at Oracle Corporation for 17 years. Nugent’s sales career began at Software International, where he spent more than six years marketing and selling mainframe applications software to Fortune 1000 companies. He is also a graduate of the Advanced Management Program of Harvard Business School.

He and his wife, Marilyn, live in Menlo Park, Calif.

So what advice does Nugent give to college students now?

“Get your priorities straight,” he said. “Make sure you have a strong relationship with God and your family, and follow your passions, use your gifts. And, we all need a friend like Brother Blank, someone who is always there for you. Keep them close and cherish them.”

To find out more about the Brother Ferrell Blank, S.J. Scholarship, contact Dr. Samantha Church in the Development Office at (251) 414-3208 or