Whitman at Work: Opportunities at Syracuse Put Alum on the Road to Business Career That Benefits the Environment, Helps Others
Syracuse University exposed me to a variety of people from all walks of life — those from different socioeconomic levels, domestic and international students, and diverse cultures. It was such an important learning experience that helped me become comfortable in almost any situation.
From a first-generation college student finding her own way to the chief financial officer of a pioneering technology company, Meme Scherr ’89 has navigated the road to success.
Born in Korea and raised near Washington, D.C., Scherr discovered Syracuse University on a college visit with a friend. Within driving distance of her home and providing her the financial assistance she needed, the lively campus offered Scherr a range of courses and activities, a diverse student population and a chance to see the world.
“Syracuse University exposed me to a variety of people from all walks of life — those from different socioeconomic levels, domestic and international students, and diverse cultures. It was such an important learning experience that helped me become comfortable in almost any situation,” she says.
Scherr was eager to try many classes and also spent a semester abroad in London. It wasn’t until her junior year that she declared her major: finance with a minor in economics. She knew a foundation in business would help her in any career she pursued.
But it was not only academics that contributed to her positive experience. She joined Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and, in her sophomore year, became a Syracuse University cheerleader. Cheerleading gave her opportunities to see the world, traveling to the 1987 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four and with the football team to the 1989 Coca-Cola Bowl in Tokyo. In addition, she met fellow Syracuse student Peter Scherr ’89 (A&S), whom she married in 1991. Today, they are the parents of a son and daughter.
After graduation, Scherr used her finance degree to pursue a career in investment banking, one that has spanned more than 30 years. Recently, she was a partner, head of business development and chief operating officer at Sensato Investors, an Asian equity hedge fund in the Bay Area. In May 2022, Scherr was hired as chief financial officer at San Francisco-based Aclima, a data software company that maps air quality and greenhouse gases at the neighborhood block level through a fleet of roving vehicles and cloud-based analytics software. Scherr says she is proud to be part of the leadership team working to use technology for the public good to help deliver clean air for all.
“Aclima has developed technology that translates billions of measurements into valuable environmental intelligence for governments, businesses and communities,” Scherr explains.
Aclima, although headquartered in California, found its way to the streets of Syracuse, as well as several other Central New York cities and New York City. The company recently won a large contract with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to use its technology as part of the implementation of the New York Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.
“The work Aclima is doing in New York state is important, and I am proud our work is taking place in the city that helped me get my start,” she says.
In addition to her job, Scherr is a member of Plum Alley, an investment firm that invests in female founders in early-stage tech and health care Companies.
“Plum Alley is how I connected with Aclima’s CEO and co-founder, Davida Herzl, and learned about the company,” Scherr says. “I was inspired by her vision and drawn to what she was doing. Not only did Plum Alley invest in Aclima, but I was so excited about the company that I eventually joined as CFO.”
From coast to coast, this first-generation college student turned chief financial officer has certainly used the foundations she gained at Whitman to make a difference through her work, her time and her Talents.
“One of my life mantras is, ‘If not us, who? If not now, when?’’’ she says. “Syracuse University and the School of Management gave me opportunities I could never have imagined when I started there, but that solid foundation in business and a host of other opportunities helped me expand my outlook and do my part to make the world a better place.”
By Caroline K. Reff