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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
"My dad motivated me to be somebody relevant and to make an impact. That's
a common theme that goes through my philanthropic desiresto 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
"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
"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
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
An IRA rollover allows people age 70½ and older to reduce their taxable income by making a gift directly from their IRA.