President-Elect Trump has tapped Greenpoint born Vincent Viola to be his head of the Army. In the early 1960’s, few of the kids attending St. Cecelia’s School on Monitor Street ever imagined that they would be going to school with a member of the president’s cabinet and a billionaire, but Viola would turn out to be a huge local success story.
Viola, born locally in 1956 into an Italian-American family, is the son of a truck driver who served in the military in World War II. Vinny went on to Brooklyn Tech, the best public academic high school, where he was such a good student that he was accepted into West Point, where he graduated from in 1977. He also graduated from the US Army Ranger School and after served as an officer in the 101st Airborne following West Point, reaching the rank of major.
Viola left the military in 1982 to become a commodities trader, and joined the New York Mercantile Exchange and became a full member of the exchange in 1982. That same year, he also graduated from New York Law School. During his time as a trader, Viola worked in various leadership positions at NYMEX, serving as the Chairman of NYMEX from 2001 to 2004 when he helped the exchange survive the turmoil of the 9-11 attacks. He also took the exchange onto the Stock Market as a publicly traded corporation. Viola is a founder and principal of numerous successful trading firms and clearinghouses.
Viola has amassed great wealth. Forbes lists his net worth at 1.6 Billion. He reportedly paid $105 million for a Brooklyn building in 2016, not far from where he grew up. Viola also owns the NHL’s Florida Panthers and is a minority owner in the Brooklyn Nets.
Viola also loves horses. He grew up going to the races at Aqueduct and Belmont Park with his father before leaving home to attend West Point. In the late 1990s Viola’s dad had grown sick and he was looking for something that they could do together. Viola had the wealth to dabble in horse racing. In 1999 his father passed away, but Viola and his wife enjoyed the sport and later re-entered the racing world. The Violas own about seventy racehorses including the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner. One of his horses is called Greenpoint Crusader, named after our neighborhood.
Trump said of Viola:
“I am proud to have such an incredibly accomplished and selfless individual as Vincent Viola as our Secretary of the Army. Whether it is his distinguished military service or highly impressive track record in the world of business, Vinnie has proved throughout his life that he knows how to be a leader and deliver major results in the face of any challenge. He is a man of outstanding work ethic, integrity, and strategic vision, with an exceptional ability to motivate others. The American people, whether civilian or military, should have great confidence that Vinnie Viola has what it takes to keep America safe and oversee issues of concern to our troops in the Army.”