Alfred C. “Al’’ Koeppe, President and Chief Executive Officer of Newark Alliance and one of the preeminent business figures in Newark and New Jersey, having served as president of both New Jersey Bell and PSE&G, died early Tuesday morning after suffering from a heart attack. He was 70.
“Al was an institution in this state as he was in the City of Newark, because he knew everybody," said Verizon New Jersey Vice President for External Affairs Sam Delgado, a longtime friend of Mr. Koeppe. "He was a connector. He was able to connect Newark business leaders for the benefit of the city. His contributions to this City and state are immeasurable – we are all better people for having the opportunity to know him."
Mr. Koeppe, who was the son of a longshoreman and who was originally from Jersey City, began his professional career as a lawyer for New Jersey Bell in the 1970s and eventually rose to become president of the company, a position he held for 10 years before he moved to PSE&G, where he started as a senior vice president and eventually became president, a position he held until his retirement in 2003.
After that he kept busy as President and C.E.O. of the Newark Alliance, an organization of civic-minded businesses dedicating to improving the City of Newark that he helped found in 1999. He also served twice as chairman of New Jersey’s New Economic Development Authority and held many other positions, including Director of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of New Jersey and has served as chairman of several organizations, including the New Jersey Higher Education Commission; the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce; Chief Justice Wilentz’s Supreme Court Commission to reform the New Jersey Court System and the New Jersey Schools Construction Corporation.
And he served as a Trustee for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and for St. Benedict’s Prep School in Newark. He won several high-profile awards, including the Trailblazer Award, presented by the Council for Action for Minority Professionals; the Diversity Award, presented by the Consortium of Information Technological Executives; the Anti-Defamation League’s Americanism Award; the NCCJ Humanitarian of the Year Award and the Corporate Leader Award for both the NAACP and the AFL-CIO.
In 2010 he was presented with the Newark Regional Business Partnership's Business Builder Award for his role in the building of new business models, building of employment opportunities and building of productive bridges among diverse stakeholders. This year, he was given the Cary Edwards Leadership Award from the nonprofit, non-partisan group New Jersey Future.
“Al was the kind of person whose advice was always sought, and whose wise counsel was well-received,’’ said Chip Hallock, the president of Newark Regional Business Partnership. “He was just that kind of person who could see the big picture, got along with darn near everyone, as near as I could tell; he knew how to talk to governmental leaders, he certainly knew how to deal with his peer – executives in major companies – but he was also comfortable with anybody else he met.’’
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said he relied on Mr. Koeppe for advice on a wide range of critical city issues from municipal finances to development plans, to job creation and more.
“With the passing of Al Koeppe, Newark has lost one of our all-time great civic leaders and I have lost a dear friend and treasured advisor," Baraka said. "Al Koeppe was a giant in the business community and a true public servant."
Delgado, who served with Mr. Koeppe on the board of Newark Alliance, echoed that sentiment, saying Mr. Koeppe “knew every Governor from Brendan Byrne on up, and he could talk to everybody.’’
“Al was one of those rare individuals that crossed ethnic, party, racial and class lines,’’ Delgado said. “He felt as comfortable in a corporate board room as he did in the South Ward of Newark."
Mr. Koeppe is survived by his wife of 47 years, Ann, his son, Adam, daughter Allison, and five grandchildren.
Adam Koeppe said his father is someone who valued his family above all else.
"He was just an absolute role model for how to be a dad," Adam said. "He was so great to his grandkids. He was totally devoted to them."
"He was the best dad and grandfather that anyone could have," Allison added.
Services are Friday 2 to 4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at the Colonial Funeral Home., Route 88 in Brick. A funeral mass will be held at St. Denis Roman Catholic Church, 90 Union Avenue in Manasquan.