Academic Hall of Fame inductee inspires students to pursue their passion

May 23, 2019

By Adam Herabi

During the Academic Awards Dinner on May 6, LHS welcomed 1993 alumnus Daniel Lago into the Academic Hall of Fame. At the dinner, which took place at The Fiesta in Wood-Ridge, Lago delivered a speech highlighting the importance of developing a support network and discovering one’s true calling through trial and error.

Lago earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering with a minor in environmental engineering as well as his master’s in structural engineering from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Even though Lago’s education prepared him to enter the field of engineering, he said he quickly realized that profession was not for him.

“About a year in, I realized I hated my job,” Lago said. “I thought I had thrown it all down the drain. I couldn’t stand the humdrum of a cubicle, so I started thinking about a change.”

Lago said he made a seamless transition into brokerage.

“The language of mathematics proved to be universal, and they offered me a job at Deutsche Bank the same day of the interview,” Lago said.

He was with Deutsche Bank from 1999 to 2004, and he now works at Icap PLC in Jersey City as head of equities.

Lago referenced his own academic and professional experiences as he offered advice to the top 10 percent of LHS students, all of whom were invited to the dinner.

“Follow your passions, explore your strengths and develop your weaknesses,” Lago said. “Don’t be afraid to march to the beat of your own drum. We all have a unique purpose for being here. Be brave, and let the world see you. The most success you can experience in life comes from following your heart and living your highest value self.”

He said students should expect their first years of adulthood to shape them in profound ways.

“The decade ahead of you will be a time of exposure, confusion, pressure, expectation, freedom, responsibility and, for many of you, a bit of anxiety. It’s my opinion that it is a pivotal stage in life that lays the groundwork for the human being that you will ultimately become,” Lago said.

Vice Principal Mr. Venezia, who coached Lago when he was on LHS’ football team, said Lago’s outstanding qualities as a high school student were his determination and desire.

“While he was in high school, he had a reputation of being a very tenacious kid, very intense on the athletic field and very intense in the classroom. You could see that he had a goal to attend a prestigious college, and fortunately for him, he ended up accomplishing that and going to Johns Hopkins,” Venezia said.

Venezia said he also attributes Lago’s success to his positive energy and ability to lead others. He said he was not surprised to hear about Lago’s academic and professional accomplishments after graduating LHS.

“I think he turned out as we expected. He was a focused student and a focused athlete, and when he put his mind to things, he was able to accomplish them. It’s not surprising that even though he changed careers, he is still experiencing success,” Venezia said.

Senior Susane Morozewicz, who attended the Academic Awards Dinner, said she was encouraged by Lago’s positivity when he discussed working through challenges to build a career in a field he genuinely enjoys.

“The dissatisfaction he felt during that troubling time influenced some of his commandments: If you’re not happy, then you need to change You create the environment you want to live in, and being passionate is a pivotal part of finding success,” Morozewicz said.

She said she intends to refer to Lago’s advice as she moves towards a career in business.

“Mr. Lago left me feeling optimistic and ready to take on the challenges that the real world has in store for me. I was surely impressed with his engineering background as well as his Johns Hopkins University degree, but his desire to achieve happiness was truly inspiring,” Morozewicz said.

“His use of personal anecdotes and honest advice made it seem like he was having a one-on-one conversation with each person in the room.”

Junior Alan Aguirre, who also attended Academic Awards, said he found Lago’s advice helpful.

“From Mr. Lago’s speech, I have learned that high school is not [the time] to slack off,” Aguirre said. “High school gives students opportunities to spread their ideas freely. It drives students into adulthood as they start thinking about the future ahead of time instead of last minute,” Aguirre said.

He said Lago’s speech was both fascinating and inspirational.

“His words bring more confidence and assurance [to] those who worry about the future,” said Aguirre.

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