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Stephen Somers

Stephen Somers

Making an Impact

Long-time ESU supporter Stephen Somers strives to make a difference and pay it forward utilizing a Donor Advised Fund and supporting other ESU Foundation scholarships.

By Susan Field

Throughout his life, Stephen Somers has endeavored to achieve and give back to those around him.

As president, owner, and head of technology at Vigon International, Inc., a leading manufacturer of high-quality flavor and fragrance ingredients in East Stroudsburg, Somers' desire to be successful began at a young age.

Growing up in an Irish Catholic family in Whitestone, Queens, N.Y., Somers was inspired by his father, Joseph's drive and work ethic. Having limited means, his father often worked two or three jobs to support his six children.

"My dad motivated me to be somebody relevant and to make an impact. That's a common theme that goes through my philanthropic desires—to make an impact and pay it forward," said Somers.

Somers has done just that, by utilizing a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) to provide support to the ESU Foundation. A DAF is a public foundation managed by an investment company. The donor can control the investment of the money in stocks, or other investment vehicles, made available by the investment firm managing the fund. In turn, the investment firm can direct these monies to a charity of the donor's choice, if it is vetted as a non-profit.

Somers, who resides in East Stroudsburg and has served on the ESU Foundation Board of Directors for the last five years, supports the Steve Somers Philanthropy Annual Scholarship, awarded to a member of the Warrior baseball team, and the Stacy L. Perryman '97 Women's Basketball Endowed Scholarship. Perryman was the sister of two of Somers' long-time team members at Vigon.

In addition, he was the key sponsor for the 2019 construction of the Lady Warriors turf softball field, and recently sponsored a scoreboard for the men's baseball team, both at ESSA & Hughes Field Complex in Creekview Park.

"Donating is the way I was brought up. My dad said to 'dream big,' to take advantage of everything that is given to you and use that to make an impact on others' lives," Somers said. "It is my desire that what I give back is going to last longer than my time here on earth."

Somers' religion has had a strong influence on his life. He attended a Catholic grammar school in Flushing, N.Y., and later a Seminary High School, Cathedral Prep, in Elmhurst, N.Y. Though he decided not to pursue the priesthood, the experience enlightened him in many ways.

"It taught me to be supportive of others, to help those in need, and ultimately try to make a difference and impact the world with the gifts God has given me," Somers said.

As a young man, the one place he found confidence was on the baseball field. In high school, Somers was an All City baseball player having stolen home base 18 times, a feat that inspired the rest of his life. He gained confidence to take risks, be fearless, and perform to win, both when facing challenges in sports and in everyday life.

When he arrived at freshman orientation at St. Joseph's University, Brooklyn campus, Somers needed to choose a major. He looked around the room at the information tables advertising different programs. He noticed no one was in line at the chemistry table.

"I was with a friend, who told me, "Whatever you do, don't major in chemistry. It's really hard," Somers said. "I love challenges, so that motivated me to do something that others might be afraid to do. I never took chemistry in high school, but I said to myself, 'I stole home base 18 times, how difficult can chemistry be?"

Somers took this same 'can-do' attitude into his first job. After graduating with his Chemistry degree in three and a half years in 1982, he accepted a position as a salesperson for a small chemical supply house.

"On the first day, the owner of the company said, 'you're going to sell this line of coloring measurement instruments.' I continued with the position, never telling anyone that I was colorblind. I said to myself, "I stole home base 18 times, I can do this," Somers said.

Soon after, Somers made a sales presentation to a flavor and fragrance company, who offered him a position as a quality control chemist.

While working full-time, Somers balanced going back to school at St. John's University for his master's in Analytical Chemistry. After graduating in 1986, Somers, along with his wife and infant son, moved to New Jersey, where he went to work for a larger flavor and fragrance company.

Over the next 13 years, he rose in the ranks to a product development chemist, to a production manager, to a business director, among other roles, to finally vice president of sales.

In 1997, Somers joined Vigon, and in January 1998, became President and owner of the company.

In his tenure with the company, Somers has maintained his positivity and ambition, creating a company that treats its employees with kindness and generosity.

"I wake up every day feeling like I hit a homerun in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded to win the World Series," Somers said. "I love what I do and it is a dream to be able to create something special and treat people the way you would want to be treated, resulting in the incredible success we have realized."

Under Somers' direction, Vigon has been named to the INC 5000 Fastest Growing Company List seven times, and as one of the Best Places to Work in PA eight times. In 2016, Somers was named EY Entrepreneur of the year for the Greater Philadelphia Area. In June 2021, Somers negotiated the sale of Vigon to Azelis, a multi-billion dollar, global, publicly-traded specialty chemical supplier.

Somers first became involved with ESU when he served on a local economic committee with former ESU President, Marcia Welsh, Ph.D .

"We got along really well and became friends. I asked how I could help at ESU," Somers said. "I have always loved mentoring young people and I wanted to inspire them as much as they inspire me."

Somers got involved mentoring entrepreneurs at the Innovation Center, home to the Economic Development & Entrepreneurship division (EDE), and served on advisory boards for early start-ups that emanated from the Innovation Center. Every year, the ESU Chemistry Club tours the plant at Vigon. Somers has also been a featured speaker in the Distinguished Speaker Series and was the commencement speaker in 2015.

In addition to his involvement on several community non-profit boards, Somers, who has a grown son and daughter, who both reside in Morristown, N.J., enjoys spending time at his shore home in Cape May, N.J.

In December 2022, he realized his dream of becoming a minority ownership partner in the Fenway Sports Group, owners of the Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Liverpool Football Club.

Somers encourages generosity to ESU because of the opportunity to enrich the lives of others the same way his life was.

"ESU is an amazing institution that offers the opportunity for people from all backgrounds to pursue their dreams through providing them a great education. It has been a rewarding experience for me to pay it forward, knowing that another person is going to be given an opportunity to do something great in their lives," Somers said.

"There is nothing more powerful and rewarding than making an impact on the future of a person's life. Contributing to the ESU Foundation will do exactly that."