“We are at one of those turning points in American history where you have got to step up [and support higher education],” said Mario J. Gabelli, donor of the largest gift in Fordham University’s history.
Gabelli, a 1965 alumnus of the College of Business Administration, made a $25 million gift to Fordham in September. The gift will help propel Fordham’s campaign to its $500 million goal, and in gratitude, the University will rename the undergraduate business college the Gabelli School of Business.
“It is impossible to overstate how much Mario Gabelli’s gift means to Fordham, and to higher education,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham. “His extremely generous gift will greatly enhance Fordham’s ability to deliver a world-class business education. The University community, including those who will join us in future generations, are deeply in his debt.”
Fordham formally announced the gift at the College of Business Administration (now the Gabelli School of Business) capital campaign kickoff at the Homecoming celebration on Sept. 25, at the Rose Hill campus. The gift will allow Fordham to expand student scholarships and faculty chairs, and it will be crucial to the creation of the Center of Global Investment Analysis, which will bring together students, faculty and professionals in the financial community to enhance scholarship in the study and understanding of capital markets.
“Education is the great leveler, the engine of America’s meritocracy, and it must remain so for the country to compete in the global economy,” Gabelli said. “My grandfather died in a coal mining accident in western Pennsylvania 100 years ago, and my family always stressed the importance of education as a stepping stone to creating a better life. I am proud and blessed to be able to contribute to that effort.”
Gabelli, a philanthropist, investor and chairman and CEO of GAMCO Investors Inc., is a native of the Bronx and resident of Greenwich, Conn. He is a second-generation American, the first in his family to attend college and a summa cum laude graduate of Fordham. He also holds an M.B.A. from Columbia University. His wife, Regina Pitaro, a 1976 graduate of Fordham College at Rose Hill and member of the Board of Trustees of Fordham University, echoed Gabelli’s support of education.
“Our philanthropic focus has always been on education,” Pitaro said. “For all students, education is the great equalizer. A teacher affects eternity, and that influence not only impacts the student, but oftentimes their entire family. The circle of influence continues to expand.”
Pitaro said the Fordham community should be asking, “How can we enrich students’ minds, enrich their souls, enrich their spirits to become the very best they can be? And do that within a global context of how they are going to contribute, how they can give back to the world?”
Gabelli’s gift brings the total raised in support of Excelsior | Ever Upward | The Campaign for Fordham to $364.8 million, and the Gabelli School of Business funds raised to date to $43 million. The gift to Fordham is part of Gabelli’s long-term philanthropic strategy to support education, as well as other causes.
Of his investment in Fordham, Gabelli said, “If you’re given good times, that’s great, but if you’re given times like [these], when leadership is required, [giving back]is what you have to do.”
In addition to his philanthropy, Gabelli gives back to Fordham by guest lecturing in business courses, explaining how students should be looking at businesses and at the global marketplace, and how they should analyze companies.
“Whether you’re going to be a professional artist or you’re going to be a professor, life is fairly uncomplicated. Just do it and do the best you can,” he tells students. “And guess what? Whatever you focus on, there’s nothing that can stop you. Anybody who says you can’t do it, just ignore them. I had a thousand reasons why I shouldn’t have started a business in 1977.”
Other organizations he has supported through the Gabelli Foundation or the Gabelli Family Foundation at the Jewish Communal Fund include Columbia Business School, Boston College, Roger Williams University, the University of Miami, Fordham Preparatory School, the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore School Health Program, the National Italian-American Foundation and the American-Italian Cancer Foundation.
“Very simply, Mario Gabelli has put Fordham Business at the table in the financial capital of the world,” said Donna Rapaccioli, Ph.D., dean of the Gabelli School of Business and dean of the business faculty. “He both understands and fervently believes in the transformative power of education, and with his very generous gift, he will transform the way business students are educated at Fordham.”