While many of his colleagues spend their days in deep water, Penn State Beaver alumnus Jay A. Nudi ’85 Bus works to keep his company’s financial dealings strictly aboveboard.
Jay is chief accounting officer and controller for Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. in Tampa, Florida, and his company is in the business of shipwrecks and sunken treasures.
The company, which has about 50 employees and numerous contractors, including technicians, researchers, translators, archaeologists, and other specialists, is engaged in the archaeologically sensitive exploration and recovery of deep water shipwrecks throughout the world. Odyssey uses innovative methods and state-of-the-art technology to conduct extensive deep ocean search and recovery operations around the world.
Odyssey was founded in 1994 by industry pioneers John C.Morris and Greg Stemm. Currently, Stemm is the company’s chief executive officer, following John Morris’ retirement in January 2008.
“This is a publicly traded company committed to following the highest professional standards of archaeologically sensitive shipwreck exploration,” Jay said. “Concurrent with Odyssey’s goals for exploration is the organization’s dedication to protecting the cultural heritage found in deep ocean shipwrecks.”
So how does a former Penn State Beaver student end up in a job with such an extraordinary company?
“I found out about it through a national networking group for finance professionals called the Financial Executives Network Group,” Jay said. “My wife, Beth, and I were moving back to Tampa from Atlanta, and I had several job opportunities, but frankly, this one really piqued my interest.”
In May 2005 Jay became the corporate controller at Odyssey, and in January 2006 he was named chief accounting officer. “As you can imagine, there aren’t many shipwreck exploration companies,” he noted. “They’re few and far between, but Odyssey is recognized internationally as the world-leader in deep ocean shipwreck exploration. I am so fortunate to have the chance to work here.”
Jay said that the company’s business plan is built on the premise that ships have been lost for centuries in deep water with valuable and fascinating artifacts and cargo. “The technology now exists to find and recover these lost artifacts and cargo in an archaeologically sound manner,” he said. “Odyssey believes these historical and economic treasures should be shared with the public.”
Odyssey currently has numerous shipwreck projects in various stages of development around the world. “For security reasons we can’t reveal these locations,” Jay said.
The company also generates revenue through the sale of artifacts to collectors, although a careful distinction is made between culturally significant artifacts and trade goods.
“When we recover artifacts that are one-of-akind, unique, or culturally significant, we keep them in our permanent collection,” Jay said. “Then they’re available for study by researchers, archaeologists, and academics.”
Odyssey often discovers items that were mass-produced, including pottery, coins, gems, bottles, coal, and bricks.
“We keep a permanent reserve of a representative sample of these items for study, but there is no reasonable scientific or cultural value in retaining all of these duplicate items in storage rooms in a museum,” Jay said. “It’s more practical to offer them for private ownership to a collector who takes great pride in and care of his or her collection.”
Odyssey also sponsors exhibits around the world and sells books and DVDs of its adventures.
Jay said that when people learn where he works, they immediately think of pirates, danger, and lost treasures, but these adventure-laden images are quite different than the actual operations of shipwreck exploration.
“This is a constantly evolving, state-of-the- art industry that depends on advanced technology, a well-organized business plan, and sound international relationships,” Jay said.
Jay has great memories of Penn State Beaver. A graduate of Freedom High School, he spent his first two years of college at Beaver campus, then moved to Penn State University Park to complete his degree.
As a commuter student at Beaver, Jay loved attending events and meeting up with friends in the Student Union Building. “One of my best memories is seeing The Silencers perform in concert at Beaver,” he said. “They were one of Pittsburgh’s top bands in the ’80s, and it was so great to see them on campus because I was such a big fan.”
Jay chose Penn State for the academic advantage he knew he’d have when he graduated.
“Beginning my college career was beneficial in several ways. It gave me a financial advantage because I could live at home while receiving a quality education with a lot of one-on-one attention from my professors. But I also began to understand the impact a Penn State degree can carry in this world.”
At the time Jay attended Beaver, the campus didn’t offer baccalaureate degrees. So why did he decide to move on to University Park to complete his degree instead of attending another school closer to home?
“What can I say?” Jay laughed. “We are ... PENN STATE! I knew I couldn’t get the education and accounting perspective I needed anywhere else. Penn State was a natural choice for me all the way.”
Jay also credits his Penn State degree with putting him ahead of the crowd when he graduated and began looking for work.
“Penn State was known as one of the top non-Ivy League schools when I was there. To this day, I know with 100 percent certainty that I made the right choice.”
“I also found out that wherever I went, I ran into Penn State alumni,” he added. “We’re everywhere, whether it’s at work, in the grocery store, restaurants, or professional sports. Jay’s wife, Beth, graduated from the University of Nebraska with a degree in English and now works in the insurance industry.
“One time Beth commented that Penn State alums are everywhere because we have a campus on every corner in Pennsylvania,” Jay laughed. “I couldn’t help myself when I answered, ‘Hey, it’s supply and demand, baby!’ ”
When asked what career advice Jay could give to current students or graduates, he replied that the world holds many fascinating employment opportunities.
“The best advice I can give to anyone is to pursue something you love doing and have fun with it. As far as working at Odyssey, well …turnover is minimal here, but who knows, send me your resume!”
Originally written by Amy M. Krebs for the Penn State Beaver Nittany News alumni magazine, Fall 2008
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