The South of France is one heck of a place to get an education. But before Northeastern University, that's where Frederick (Fred) Brodsky, DMSB'66, got it.

Newly dismissed from Rutgers University for preferring partying over keeping up his grades, Brodsky relinquished his astrophysicist dreams to spend a few years driving trucks, collecting tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike, and working for his uncle in post-war 1950s France.

“He had an import-export company for natural materials—camel hair, angora, and wool. He was one of the world's experts in bristles,” recalls Brodsky. “He spoke eight languages and had an extremely good lifestyle.”

For Brodsky, who was raised by Ukrainian immigrant parents and would grow to be a longtime supporter of D'Amore-McKim School of Business International Business programs like its Bachelor of Science in International Business (BSIB), working alongside his uncle was the unlikely beginning of his own international career path.

At his uncle's Paris headquarters, the 19-year-old Brodsky was charged with monitoring his uncle's car, always keeping a watchful eye on the vulturous parking police. He started logging transactions for the business and was eventually sent to Aix-en-Provence, the picturesque birthplace of Cézanne and home to one of his uncle's factories.

There, Brodsky learned about dehairing—“a process where you take the hair right off the animal, wash it, then run it through a series of rollers that separates the long fine hairs from the short, not-so-good hairs,” he said—and he learned French, too, along with how to run all the factory's machinery.

But he wouldn't get too far—on the other side of the world, the Vietnam War was raging, and Brodsky had received news of the draft. Ironically, joining the Army Reserves led him right to Northeastern.

Back to school

Fred Brodsky, 1987

Most of the men in Brodsky's company were from New England and spoke highly of Northeastern. “Back then, it was a commuter school, but they had co-op education,” he says. “I realized that without an education, I was going to be nothing. So, I had to make a choice.”

He chose college, round two. He was a few years older than most Northeastern students, but this time, “I knew what I was there for,” says Brodsky, who received full tuition through a Travelli Scholarship.

As part of Brodsky's co-op experiences, he worked in insurance, on Wall Street, and at Ford Motor Co. He spent nearly three years in Detroit, which allowed him to apply to the University of Michigan as an in-state applicant.

He graduated from Northeastern first in his business class, second overall, and finished his MBA with a specialization in international finance at the University of Michigan in 10 months—but not without a little help from Northeastern.

“At Michigan, I ran out of money,” he says. “I was taking 22 credits in graduate school, and I had no time to do anything, and my family was disinclined to help because I'd been thrown out of Rutgers.”

So, Brodsky called the administrator for the Travelli Scholarship. “I said, ‘I need $2,000 to finish the University of Michigan. Can you help?'”

When Brodsky graduated, he phoned the administrator again—this time, to pay the money back. But Brodsky was refused. “He told me, ‘When you get to a position where you can do something like this, do it.'”

Going international, again

After Michigan, Brodsky thought he was returning to Europe for international consulting until the company he was going to work for collapsed.

He headed to Washington, D.C., instead, and to the U.S. Department of Labor—“the furthest thing from my mind,” he said—and established a cost accounting system and reporting system for the Manpower Development and Training Act before joining ITT World Communications as Director of Financial Controls and Long Range Planning.

The job took him all over the world and reintroduced him to the concept of the “ugly American”—something he'd learned in the dives and shops of France while working for his uncle.

“I got to talking to those people, and they told me why they didn't like Americans,” he said.

Brodsky explains that most were offended by American tourists who didn't understand—or want to understand—another culture and were shocked when they couldn't find the same food, products, and amenities in Europe as in the United States.

“Those conversations gave me insights into cultural differences and America's insularity. Especially back then, America was very insular,” he says.

Brodsky took another job that allowed him to travel the world—this time, with commercial property firm Trammel Crow International. But with experience comes confidence, and after a few years, Brodsky decided to go big or go home: He founded International Investment Advisors, his own real estate investment and development company out of Dallas.

That was where he met his wife, Darla, thanks to a mutual friend. She had started out in real estate herself before joining Texas Business Magazine's sales team. “Then I started having chances to travel with Fred,” she says.

Together, they traveled the world for decades and weathered the fluctuations of business, from windfalls to market downfalls, and have now retired in Florida. During the pandemic's ample free time, Brodsky wrote and self-published his memoir, The Accidental Entrepreneur: How I Stumbled into Success, in 2021.

But it's those international travels that still inspire involvement at Northeastern.

Giving back and creating global Huskies

From l. to r.: Fred Brodsky, Ruth V. Aguilera, Darla Brodsky, and Harry Lane

In November 2022, the couple returned to campus to celebrate Ruth V. Aguilera, the current holder of the Darla and Frederick Brodsky Trustee Professor in Global Business and a fellow champion of the BSIB program.

For Brodsky, growing the BSIB program and turning Huskies into global citizens go hand in hand.

“I would like to see the BSIB program spread its wings and integrate with other parts of the university because the things that are learned in international business have implications for everybody,” he says. “Ultimately, you're going to interface with people from different cultures.”

With nationalism on the rise around the globe, Brodsky also sees international business as a path for understanding that, no matter where you're from, people are more alike than different.

“My objective was to try to facilitate the dissemination and the experience of different cultures, primarily to Americans, so that they can then not have this visceral fear of the different,” he says.

These days, the Brodskys regularly Zoom with Aguilera's students. “I was so impressed with their questions,” he says. “Some knew what they wanted to do. Some didn't. I said, ‘No big deal. Go do something different. Go explore a part of the world you've never been to and see what resonates with you.'”

Hopeful advice for the next crop of entrepreneurs—the accidental ones, too.