Gary Leopold '77 - CEO, ISM


Exploring exotic destinations like Paris, Dubai and Amsterdam is just a day at the office for Curry College graduate Gary Leopold '77.

In his role as the President and CEO of ISM, a Boston-based travel and lifestyle marketing agency, he works hard to ensure that his international roster of clients are effectively communicating their messages to travelers across the globe. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Emirates Airline, American Express Travel Services and Harley-Davidson are just a few internationally renowned companies that have trusted Leopold, and his creative team of advertising and marketing experts, to effectively showcase their brands on the world stage.

While he can often be found jetting off to remote destinations around the world, Leopold says that traveling is simply a perk of exciting work.

"There is something wonderful and magical about travel that just makes it fun," said Leopold. "It takes a special skill to communicate to people so that it motivates them to choose one destination over another or one airline over another, but the concept of why people can travel and the benefits of travel are easy for everyone to understand."


Taking Off at Curry

Leopold's entrepreneurial attitude was apparent during his early days at Curry College. While working as the news director of Curry's WMLN radio station, he wrote and produced a popular show called News Stand, a magazine program that was truly ahead of its time. The program, a hodgepodge of headlines, entertainment news, features, updates and chit-chat, often left Leopold and his co-host bellowing on the air.

"I was the news director of I had that on air experience, and for a while thought I should put my radio voice on and get into that," said Leopold, who ultimately majored in communication.

Leopold grew up with a thirst for knowledge and a knack for writing. He set his sights on Curry due in part to the success of the College's baseball team. Hoping to thrive at a school closer to his New York home that would allow him to balance competitive athletics with interesting academics, he left the University of Missouri in Columbia after one year and joined the Curry Colonels in 1976. Leopold ultimately earned the designation of All-League athlete.

"My junior year we actually led the nation in batting for Division III schools," said Leopold, who formed many friendships as a member of the team.

Hours before Leopold checked in at WMLN or suited up for an early evening game, he put on his gloves and got to work with Curry's Buildings and Grounds team to complete odd jobs around campus. Before many of his friends lifted their heads from the pillow, Leopold could be found moving furniture, painting and even cutting grass around residence halls as the sun rose.

"I had to earn money to pay for my tuition.  It was manual labor, but it was fun and I think the early hours helped to further shape my work ethic," said Leopold.

While some of Leopold's fondest memories of Curry include his time at the radio station, playing sports and working maintenance on campus, he said he was most proud to have been selected by his peers as the official class orator. When graduation day arrived in the spring of 1979, Leopold stood tall behind the podium and delivered a speech that truly foreshadowed his future journey.

"As college ends, I think back on a quote from a teacher who said, 'Knowledge is life with wings.' With this in mind, I urge us all to utilize our knowledge of the past and present, of experience and friendship so that we may soar high in the skies of the future, "darting among the clouds of success and rays of happiness."

Earning His Wings

Leopold entered the hospitality industry just three years after college, when he became the very first manager of public relations for the Boston-based Sonesta International Hotels Corporation. He got the job after submitting a marketing and public relations proposal to the group, one he worked on with help from a few "Curry connections." When his boss at Sonesta broke from the company and formed her own marketing shop in the early '80s, Leopold was the first full-time employee she hired.. In 2000, Leopold purchased ISM and is now literally 'darting among the clouds of success," as he travels to meet with clients across the globe.

"So much of what occurs is happenstance. It's about putting yourself in position to be in the right place at the right time, and then being smart enough to take advantage of it. A big part of that is knowing somebody who can help open a door," said Leopold, who says that focusing on a goal and networking are the best pieces of advice he would share with a college student who dreams of success in the marketing world.

New Heights

ISM claims to be "the agency that gets where travel is going" - a tough promise to make in a constantly evolving, often unpredictable business. In an effort to stay ahead of the curve and attract new business, Leopold and his team work to utilize the newest vehicles of communication and reach out to prospective clients and their customers through the web, social media, blogs and even iPhone applications.

Though Leopold is constantly thinking ahead in an effort to rise above the competition, he says that he often thinks back to the lessons he learned and the confidence he gained as a Curry College student.

"I think Curry College inspired me to want to go on to become successful," said Leopold, about his Curry experience.

As a grateful alumnus, Leopold has opened the doors of his company to host young alumni networking receptions, and has returned to campus to share his story and advice with the next generation of Curry entrepreneurs. While he is quick to encourage undergraduates to apply for internships and seek real-world experiences, he also believes that being good and doing good can take any person to great heights.

"If you respect those around you, you'll earn respect.  And I truly believe that if you focus on doing good, and making the right choices, it will always serve you well," said Leopold.


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