When John Bartling '82 was studying for his B.S.B.A. in marketing at Robert Morris, he probably never imagined that one day he would be ringing the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange. But it took him less than 20 years to get there. "You get up on that little balcony overlooking the floor with all the traders, with CNBC over in one corner, and there is all this pent-up excitement," says Bartling. "Then your moment comes, and never in your life do you think you will be the person who gets to stand on the podium and push that button."
Bartling is the 2011 recipient of the Heritage Award, RMU's most prestigious alumni award, given for distinguished service and accomplishment. He is global head of real estate of Ares Management and senior partner of Ares Commercial Real Estate, an affiliate of Los Angeles-based Ares, a global alternative asset manager and investment adviser with some $46 billion of committed capital.
Bartling transferred to Robert Morris from Westminster College to finish his degree while paying his way through college. "Going to school at night and working during the day really focuses your attention on how much a degree is really worth to you," he says. "Asking myself that question – is going to school really important to you – definitely matured me."
After graduation, Bartling's first position was with Mellon Bank’s commercial mortgage banking group. One of his clients, a major real estate development and investment firm, asked him to head their new land development division. "So at 28, I moved from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., to start a business I had no clue how to run," he says. But Bartling found success; in 1992, he moved to Wall Street to assist big banks in pooling commercial mortgages to sell to investors. Later, as CEO of an Ohio real estate company with a billion dollars in real estate investments, he took the company public on the NYSE – and rang the celebrated opening bell. Another string of successes followed, eventually leading up to his joining Ares Management in 2010.
Bartling says his wife and children help him keep his perspective. "Ringing the bell on Wall Street, as exciting and fun as it was, pales in comparison to watching your child take their first steps, go to their first dance, or graduate from high school. For me personally, parenting is about being able to enjoy the world in which we all live in through their eyes."
When his daughter Amanda was three months old, she had a bad reflux condition, causing her to choke and almost die. She ended up spending a significant portion of the next six months in the hospital and on a heart monitor. Because of that scare and the lifesaving medical treatment his daughter received, Bartling became an active supporter of hospitals and medical charities – both in terms of the dollars he raises or donates as well as time and effort on their behalf. A charity he created, Caring Partners for Kids, makes available vacant apartments and houses to families who need a place to stay while their child undergoes surgery or needs long-term health care.
"Little things can have a huge impact in your community," says Bartling. "Sometimes just making use of what you are not using can make an enormous impact."