Our favorite (Jersey) things: Our interviewees tell us their favorite Jerseyans

We like to have fun in our year-end Interview Issue — our annual give-and-take with some of the state’s most interesting and impactful leaders.

So, in addition to questions about their specialty areas, we asked all of them these three questions:

  1. Who is your favorite Jerseyan in history?
  2. What is your favorite thing about New Jersey?
  3. What would you do if you were business czar for the day?

Here’s what they had to say about Question No. 1:

Who is your favorite Jerseyan in history?

Christopher Eisgruber, president, Princeton University: “Oswald Veblen. He was a mathematician here in the early 20th century. And he basically transformed the math and physics departments in this university and helped to start the Institute for Advanced Study. He’s not well known, but he should be. He realized early on what was happening in Nazi Germany and helped to bring over a number of Jewish refugees who otherwise would have perished. I think he’s one of the unsung heroes. He just stands for so many things, from academic excellence to being a great citizen of the university to being somebody who helps the refugee in a time of need. So, he gets my vote.”

Parimal Garg, chief counsel, Governor’s Office: “Bill Bradley. And, to be honest, it’s less because he was a distinguished senator and presidential candidate and more because he was a starter on two (New York) Knicks championship teams, which, unfortunately, the last of which was 47 years ago. In all seriousness, I always thought he was a real model of public service. Someone who advanced ideas in the U.S. Senate when he was running for president, someone to work across party lines and was a real statesman. Growing up, I always thought he was an incredible reflection of our state.”

Ralph Izzo, chairman, CEO and president, PSEG: “John Nash. Do you remember the movie, ‘A Beautiful Mind,’ about John Nash, a Princeton math professor? Can you imagine battling schizophrenia and becoming a renowned mathematician? While I like Bruce (Springsteen) the most, I think I’m inspired by John Nash.”

Nancy Lurker, CEO and president, EyePoint Pharmaceuticals: “Frank Sinatra! Who doesn’t love his music? I do, and I listen to him all the time.”

Amy Mansue, CEO, Inspira Health: “I have been blessed with so many people who have made an impact in my life, so I have to name three people: Jim Florio: first job, first everything. When I interned for him in 1987 in D.C., it opened so many doors. Hazel Gluck: She was the commissioner of transportation. She was the lottery commissioner. She was somebody who took me under her wing — really, by the scruff of my neck — when I was just 20. She was a huge influence. And, then, Gov. (Brendan) Byrne. He was just a tremendous soul. He always could find a way to create humor, as well as do really amazing policy. And he always put everybody at ease.”

Tammy Murphy, founding chair, New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund“Judge Esther Salas. This is something that changes all the time, but, at this moment, it’s Judge Esther Salas. She is someone I recently met when (Gov.) Phil (Murphy) signed Daniel’s Law. I cannot imagine anyone taking such strength and thinking about their fellow residents, their fellow colleagues at a time when they’ve suffered such tragic loss. And she is absolutely lovely. I mean, just lovely. So, she would be my choice.”

Kristin Peck, CEO, Zoetis: “I’m obsessed with music. I like lots of genres of music, films. But my favorite concert I ever went to was my favorite artist: Lauryn Hill (of South Orange). She was incredibly innovative and disruptive in the music that she came out with. When she did her first solo album, ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,’ which is actually the concert I went to at (Madison Square Garden), she tells story so compellingly and she just mixes genres and does cool collaboration. So, as just an artist, and probably one of my favorite people, would be Lauryn Hill.” (Peck notes this fact: The then-little-known artist who plays piano on some of Hill’s album is John Legend … he was 19 at the time — and known as John Stephens.)

U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.): “Mark Kelly: I’m a little biased, because he comes from my district, down the street in West Orange, and he’s a Navy veteran. And an astronaut. He and his wife, Gabby Giffords, supported me with the Giffords Group, which works hard for gun safety legislation. He’s now continuing that public service as a U.S. senator from Arizona.”

Sampath Sowmyanarayan, president of global enterprise, Verizon Business: “Bruce Springsteen: I’ve been to many of his concerts. He can go for four hours, nonstop, take a sip of water, and go back to entertaining. It’s exactly the same as it was 20 years ago when I was in school. HIs work ethic and his ability to entertain is incredible. If all of us were able to do 50% of what he did, we’d be fine.”

Diane Wasser, partner-in-charge for New Jersey, EisnerAmper: “Danny DeVito: Let’s go with the person I think is interesting and funny. I’m proud that Danny DeVito is from New Jersey. I love his movies and ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.’ You just have to love Danny DeVito.”

Josh Weinreich, CEO, New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund: “My favorite Jerseyan also changes by the day. It blows me away, as people show up to do more and be proactive to help. Some are high-profile folks, and, some days, it’s really people who are just stretching to make a difference. It’s just so inspiring and makes me love New Jersey more than I ever have.”