Salve Success: Theresa Pearson ’94 reflects on successful career, loss and faith
Teresa Pearson ’94 was not long out of college when she was scheduled to give a presentation to an audience of fashion industry experts. Whether it was a mere case of the “butterflies” or full-on stage fright, she wasn’t certain she’d get through it.
“I remember I had to give my first formal part in community service opportunities by volunteering to help presentation of my career in front of 350 people, Newport’s homeless community as well as mentoring students in in fashion, in front of Kenneth Cole — the owner and CEO — and every Kenneth Cole licensee,” said Pearson. “I thought, ‘This may be too big a moment for me, do I run?’”
Pearson could hear the beating of her heart as she wondered how she was going to give the presentation.
“But sometimes, you just need to own the moment and put yourself out there,” she said. “You make the choices.”
Since then, Pearson has navigated great joy and deep loss, taking lessons away from each experience which have had lasting impacts. Her career has taken several sharp turns, but she admitted that she has always been driven to succeed.
As vice president of global franchise strategy and brand management for Hasbro, Inc., Pearson manages the Sports Action side of the business, which includes the popular Nerf brand, which is distributed in more than 120 countries with retail sales of more than $1 billion. Her job entails leading digital marketing, influencer marketing, brand partnerships, content development as well as driving strategic business development for products across toy adjacencies, sports, water play, apparel, location-based entertainment, digital gaming and more.
In addition, she has an impressive background in the fashion industry, working with many well-known brands and celebrities, and has experience as an entrepreneur.
All of this, Pearson credits to Salve Regina.
Graduating from Salve Regina
“I knew right away that Salve was the school for me, and my mother knew it too,” she said. Growing up in a coastal town in New Jersey, Pearson says the environment felt familiar.
“It reminded me of home, yet it was still new,” she said. “I grew up in a large Irish Catholic family, went to church every Sunday, and had attended a Catholic high school.”
Pearson began by declaring sociology as her major — drawn to the idea of understanding how people operate. She also took part in community service opportunities by volunteering to help Newport’s homeless community, as well as mentoring students in Providence.
“My friends from Salve are my team,” said Pearson. “They’re still the closest individuals to me outside of my family. there are no words for it. They’re like sisters and brothers to me and I am forever grateful for all their friendships.
“I had many awakenings at Salve,” she continued. “The school’s commitment to seeing success and not accepting excuses made a massive impact on my life. I had two teachers who personally invested in me; those individuals are pretty much the reason I am where I am today. John Rok and Sister Virginia Walsh were the best mentors. They pushed me, but they pushed me with kindness. I think of them often.”
After graduating, Pearson moved to Boston and worked for an investment firm. A year and a half later, she moved to New York City and began working in the fashion industry, handling advertising and marketing for brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Kenneth Cole, David Yurman and Burberry.
She discovered that she excelled at not only building and strengthening brands but growing them with new product lines that added new revenue streams to the business. She also discovered an entrepreneurial spirit and ultimately chose to take a risk with her career. She gave up her position and life in New York City to start her own company — a tennis wear line founded on the style of her late grandmother Bridget O’Leary.
“I try to be open to things because usually there’s something in play and I want to be available to it, especially if it involves a growth opportunity,” said Pearson. “At the time it felt like a big step back. I had to move in with my parents and give up my apartment in the city in order to fund my own business, but it taught me a lot of lessons in knowing myself. A title doesn’t make me. An apartment doesn’t make me. What really matters is my understanding of who I am and what I want to do.”
Balancing motherhood, loss and faith
Pearson later met her future husband Dana during a Salve get-together in Newport. She moved back to Aquidneck Island and the
two married and welcomed their first child, Bridget, to the world. After their second daughter, Sloane, was diagnosed with infantile leukemia, Pearson began a journey she had never anticipated.
The family sought treatment, renting homes close to Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Sadly, Sloane passed away in 2012 at 9 months old after extraordinary efforts to overcome the disease, which included being the second family to participate in a worldwide clinical trial involving cellular therapy.
“This is where God, faith and my Salve friends were so incredible,” Pearson said. “We went on a journey of a lot of soul searching and really trying to process the loss of our child. We healed to the best of our ability, but we’ll always carry it. We also find comfort in knowing Sloane is at peace and is with God now.”
After the pandemic eased, Pearson returned home to New Jersey and currently resides in Rumson with Dana, 14-year-old Bridget, and Australian labradoodle Memphis, who was named for the city in which the family spent much of Sloane’s life. However, she remains very connected to Rhode Island, which includes her position at Hasbro.
“The company holds family-friendly values and they’re very supportive of working moms,” said Pearson, who has been with Hasbro for 13 years. “I’m still there because it’s a company that’s close-knit and very much based on community. It’s similar to Salve in this way.”
Giving back to her community
A staunch advocate for giving back, Pearson currently serves on the marketing sub-committee board of Hackensack Meridien Health Systems and was on the Advisory Board at both St. Jude’s as well as Girls on the Run. She also mentors countless women entering the workforce, teaching them how to own and use their voice.
“Being of service to individuals is very much a part of me,” said Pearson. “Women need to be empowered so they feel they can compete in a much more expansive way and go beyond traditional roles for women in business.”
According to Pearson, a strong work ethic is critical.
“In order to be successful, you need to continue to do your own work,” she says. “Salve taught me that you’re only going to get where you want to go by working hard. Not only did Salve help me to define who I am and to meet the challenges I’ve faced, but also understand the success that I could achieve. I truly don’t know if I would have received this somewhere else.
“I was never a number at Salve,” Pearson continued. “It’s a testament to their investment in me — to who I am today professionally, and this also includes being able to process the loss of my daughter. Life isn’t always a straight line; it involves facing a lot of unexpected twists and turns. However, if you learn to hold on tight to your faith and take it all one step at a time, you will end up living a life of resiliency and will always be able to get the job done.”
This story originally appeared in the Report From Newport Spring/Summer 2023 edition. It has been slightly changed from its original formatting.
Salve Success is a series of student success stories periodically featured on SALVEtoday. Check out the tag Salve Success for more stories.