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Rectory Alumni Awards

2021 Emerging Leader Award: Jamel Torrence '09
Presented and Interviewed by Fred Williams, Head of School
From Pomfret, CT to Zooming with DWade: Torrence is Rectory’s Emerging Leader

FRED WILLIAMS: Jamel is lucky. He graduated in 2009 about two months before I came onto campus. I’m sorry I missed him then, but I’ve certainly gotten to know him since and have enjoyed learning about the success that he’s achieving right now. Here are a few words on Jamel’s time at Rectory. Like so many of the kids who come to Rectory, he had a passion for sports. Basketball may have been his first love, but he also became a pretty good cross-country runner. He received a Rectory Creed award which is among our most significant awards, presented to those who live out the values on which Rectory was founded. Jamel was a dorm proctor, and one teacher noted that his character was marked by simple acts of kindness. He stopped outside her office every morning just to say hello. For the adults who live and work on campus, knowing that the kids recognize them and care about them enough to greet them in the morning is a big deal. Those traits followed Jamel beyond Rectory as he's started his career.

FRED WILLIAMS: Can you tell us how you got into marketing, and specifically, what role did a rectory alumnus and a pair of sneakers have to do with it?

JAMEL TORRENCE: I’m honored to be here to receive this award. I look forward to getting back to campus again someday. A few years ago, I was on my way to a Rectory event at the New York Sports Club. The invite said the attire was “business casual.” I was a college student at the time, coming from class, and had on a collared shirt, khakis, and a pair of sneakers. I wasn’t allowed into the New York Sports Club because they have a rule that you cannot wear sneakers. I wasn’t the only person who didn’t know that. Most notably was Pete Chelala ‘91, who had just come from work downtown. He was wearing a full suit and a pair of sneakers, and they wouldn’t let him in either. Mr. Seaward came downstairs to speak with us for a while, and we really appreciated that because he was someone who impacted all of us. After that conversation, Pete and I connected as Rectory alumni, and he, being an older alumnus than I, recognized my position in college and invited me to visit his office at Viacom. He showed me around and introduced me to digital marketing, which he saw as the future of marketing. It was my eye-opener that this might be something that would be interesting. I already enjoyed content and media thanks to Mrs. Seaward's multimedia class at Rectory, and the visit with Pete inspired me to do something about it.

FRED WILLIAMS: Tell us about your progression from the start of your career until now. What were your internships like, and for any Rectory students who may see this part of the interview, what was the salary for your internships?

JAMEL TORRENCE: When I realized I wanted to get into marketing, I started applying to internships without experience, and they all said “no.” I didn’t treat it as a no; I had to figure out how I was going to get into the industry. One day, I asked my dad if I could do the social media management for his basketball team. I posted practices, game highlights, held media days, and posted information about what was going on with the team. Once I put that on my resume, I started to get interest from smaller companies who saw that I had some of the skills they were looking for. The salary for my first internships was $0, but I did earn course credit. It was mostly free labor; thankfully a lot of places have changed that, including where I work now, CSM Entertainment. Students who come to work every day and who provide work for your clients deserve to be paid.

FRED WILLIAMS: All your hard work is paying off now. You are a creative strategist; what does that involve?

JAMEL TORRENCE: I work mostly in sports marketing on brand campaigns, different activations on social media, and experiential marketing, and my job is to come up with the creative elements. How will this sound, what is the slogan, what is the design, look, and feel of this campaign? We also determine the strategy, who the audience is, and the brand’s position in its particular market. We give the client what they need to be successful in their campaign.

FRED WILLIAMS: To what do you credit your success?

JAMEL TORRENCE: It begins with learned experiences. Then, I take advice from people in my past who have been there like my parents and mentors. Most importantly, I would say every day I just want to work hard. I don’t want to rely on skills alone. I knew when I was getting into the industry that I didn't have the skills and that the only thing that would allow me to obtain those skills and want employers to keep me around was to work hard. I always say that I may not be the most skilled, but no one is going to outwork me. The last thing is that I am not afraid to ask questions when I don’t know an answer. When I see a closed door, I know that questions are the only way to open it.

FRED WILLIAMS: What are you most proud of in your work so far

JAMEL TORRENCE: There are two projects that I’m super proud of. In 2019, my company helped bring the Yankees and Red Sox to London to play the first international Major League Baseball games. I was part of developing the fan experience. They don’t play baseball in the UK so we had to come up with a fan experience that would help educate fans about the game and increase their enjoyment. The second thing is a campaign I've been working on since last year with Hisense, a Chinese TV manufacturer, who wanted to break into the American market through sports. I was fortunate to work on the campaign with Dwyane Wade where we produced a video over Zoom. I worked with Blake Griffin and Rob Gronkowski as well, and these experiences brought me a lot of recognition and social media impressions.

FRED WILLIAMS: Where do you hope your career goes from here?

JAMEL TORRENCE: I tend not to put a ceiling on it. I don’t like to think about an end goal. Every year, I'm trying to find new goals. I would love to be a head of social media at an agency or a creative director working on our own brand. Maybe open my own company. There are a couple of different things I think I might want to do, but right now, I am enjoying the ride and looking forward to seeing where it goes.

FRED WILLIAMS: You are doing so much. Keep it up. We are really happy for you.

  • 2021
  • Emerging Leader

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