Greenfield was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1951, four days
before his partner, Ben Cohen. He grew up and went to school
in Merrick, Long Island. It was there that he met Ben, in
junior high school. Ben and Jerry both attended and graduated
from Calhoun High School in Merrick.
remembers that he and Ben were two of the widest students
in their school and actually came to know each other trying
to run the track in gym class. They also double-dated together
in Ben's convertible Camaro, complete with an 8-track cassette
tape deck. Jerry graduated from high school with a National
Merit Scholarship under his belt and enrolled in Oberlin
College in Ohio to study pre-med.
Oberlin, Jerry got his first taste of working in the ice
cream industry when he took a job as a scooper in the college
cafeteria. His favorite course, however, was "Carnival
Techniques," where he picked up several useful skills,
including fire-swallowing. It was the sledgehammer-and-brick
trick, though,that was to become a very important component
at various Ben & Jerry's special events. It involved
suspending Ben, aka "Habeeni-Ben-Coheeni," between
2 chairs and placing a cinder-block on his ever-rounding
bare belly, whereupon a serious, pith-helmeted Jerry would
raise a sledgehammer and subsequently smash the cinder-block,
without harming Habeeni.
graduating from Oberlin, Jerry applied to medical school
but wasn't accepted. He worked as a lab technician in New
York, performing experiments to analyze oxidative phosphorylation
in beef heart mitochondria. During this time, Jerry lived
with Ben in an apartment on East 10th St. After a year of
mashing beef heart morsels into test tubes, Jerry reapplied
to medical school and was once again rejected.
1974, Jerry moved to North Carolina with his wife-to-be,
Elizabeth. At this time, Jerry claimed that he took his
'first retirement.' His retirement was more like a three-month
sabbatical, however, after which he returned to his former
profession as a lab technician.
moved back up north in 1976, and again moved in with Ben,
this time in Saratoga Springs, New York. There, they decided
to pursue their dream of starting a food business together.
They settled on ice cream and began researching the industry.
After receiving A's in a $5 Penn State correspondence course
in ice cream making, they set up their Ben & Jerry's
ice cream parlor in Burlington, Vermont, opening in May
made all the ice cream for the busy shop, which quickly
became well known for its rich, unusual flavors and community
approach to business. As the small company grew and began
to add more employees, Jerry decided to accompany Elizabeth
to Arizona to provide moral support as she completed a Ph.
1985 Jerry and Elizabeth returned to Vermont, and he rejoined
the company as "Director of Mobile Promotions."
During the summer of 1986, Ben and Jerry traveled across
the country together in the Ben & Jerry's "Cowmobile,"
serving up free samples of their ice cream in what they
termed, a "cross-country marketing drive." Unfortunately,
the cowmobile caught fire and burned to the ground outside
Cleveland; luckily neither Ben nor Jerry was hurt, but Ben
was quoted in news stories across the country, claiming
the burning Cowmobile "looked like a giant Baked Alaska."
Jerry's official titles at the company include Vice-Chair
of the Board and Director of Mobile Promotions. He often
joins Ben at many speaking engagements and, along with Ben,
is very active in Businesses For Social Responsibility,
a group that works to promote an alternative business model
based on socially responsible business practices. Incidentally,
it was Jerry's idea to create the Ben & Jerry's Joy
Gang: a group of employees dedicated to bringing more joy
into the workplace through fun activities. He's now a sort
of "Joy Pooh-Bah Emeritus," acting as a sometimes
consultant to Joy Gang initiatives.
1987, Jerry and Elizabeth married; their son Tyrone was
born in late 1988. In his spare time Jerry enjoys playing
basketball and volleyball and spending time with his family
and friends. He still swallows fire, but not as frequently
as he used to; instead, he's taken up the martial art known
as "Samurai Pint-Slicing."