“Once you start working in the water sector, you don’t want to work anywhere else,” Nadine Leslie, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SUEZ North America, says of her career in the industry. “You develop a new understanding of the importance of planning for the future and preserving resources. You find purpose in contributing to something bigger than yourself. You want to impact future generations.”
Leslie is bringing her considerable business acumen, experience, and focus on the future to Montclair State University, as a new member of the Montclair State Foundation board.
“I learned about Montclair State from Bob Iacullo,” she says, referring to her former United Water/SUEZ NA colleague, now retired from the company. Iacullo is treasurer of the Foundation and a Class of 1976 alumnus. “He asked if I would consider getting involved, but I was just about to leave for a three-year assignment in Paris. As soon as I returned, however, Bob reminded me about our conversations regarding Montclair State and the Foundation board.”
“I was still new in my role as CEO and the COVID-19 pandemic had begun,” Leslie recalls. “Although I was concerned about taking on another new project, I realized that the timing would never be perfect. And education is such a strong area of interest for me. If I can make a difference talking to young students and young women, if I can inspire them, then I want to do it.”
“I also know a few Montclair State alumni who think highly of their alma mater,” Leslie continues. “They speak of their college education as something of value that they carry throughout their careers.”
Recently, however, Leslie has gotten to know Montclair State from another perspective: that of the students. Her son is studying accounting at the University, and her cousin is taking courses on how to teach English as a second language. “I was surprised to learn that Montclair State is the second largest university in New Jersey,” she says, “but I was even more impressed by the way courses are conducted. The classes are small, and the professors are accomplished and attentive to the needs of the students.”
Leslie is eager to participate. “The diversity – of the programs and of the student body – is so important,” she says. “The future of the state relies on a pipeline of professionals who can succeed in a diverse environment.”
Leslie is planning to take a deep dive to learn more about Montclair State, so that she is ready to be an active contributor to the board. “I want to understand the challenges and opportunities,” she says. “I also plan to incorporate what I have learned through board memberships at other organizations. I hope to bring a fresh perspective, perhaps a new way of questioning and new solutions.”
Leslie’s approach is likely to be informed also by her education, which includes a B.S. in civil engineering from Faculté des Sciences in Haiti and an internship in urban planning at La Cambre University in Belgium, as well as more than 25 years of industry experience in operations, management, compliance, client relations and due diligence.
Since joining SUEZ North America in 2000, Leslie has held leadership positions of increasing responsibilities. She has served as member of the management team at projects located in Atlanta, Georgia and Rahway, New Jersey. Prior to her appointment as vice president and general manager of the SUEZ North America Toms River division in 2006, Leslie headed the company’s corporate internal audit department and served as president of SUEZ North America’s Environmental Services. In the latter role, she oversaw operations and management of contract operations of over 80 projects in the U.S. and Canada. Leslie became CEO of SUEZ North America in 2019.
In 2010, Leslie traveled to Haiti as a volunteer with Aquassistance, the humanitarian arm of SUEZ, to help the government there rebuild its water infrastructure systems, which were severely damaged by an earthquake. She is a member of the American Water Works Association and the International Water Association, and serves on the boards of the Union County Performing Arts Center and the Water Reuse Research Foundation.
SUEZ North America, which owns and operates 15 water utilities and manages more than 65 municipal contracts, has a history of generous sponsorship of Montclair State’s Annual Scholarship event, and Leslie looks forward to encouraging others to get involved as well. “There is so much that can be done,” she says. “Scholarships, internships – there are many ways you can have an impact by supporting the University.”
She also hopes to encourage students to see their education as one of the best investments they will make in themselves. “Don’t get caught up in your major as something that will be rigid,” Leslie advises. “Whatever you learn will stay with you whatever you do in the future. It will always be useful and it will always be yours. And enjoy the journey! You are preparing yourself to have a positive impact in the community, state and world.”