$35 Million Gift Shapes the Future of Business Education at the Gabelli School
By Jackie Hennessey
Mario Gabelli and Regina Pitaro’s $35 million gift to the Centennial Campaign will provide new M.B.A. and Ph.D. scholarships, fund pioneering research, expand socially responsible, student-managed investment portfolios, and weave environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles deeply into the curriculum.

They begin as a team of 24 asset managers working with international and domestic securities, bonds, commodities, and foreign exchanges. By the second semester, they become portfolio managers—junior and senior finance majors handling more than $1 million of Fordham University’s endowment fund. The experience is so rigorous that these students graduate directly into front-office positions at some of the world’s largest financial powerhouses, including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, and Barclay’s Bank.

It’s no wonder so many students want in on the Gabelli School’s Student Managed Investment Fund program. “Every year I go to their presentations, and you can just see how much they’ve learned and how poised they are,” said Donna Rapaccioli, Ph.D., dean of the Gabelli School.

Now, courtesy of a new incremental $35 million gift from Mario Gabelli, BS ’65, and his wife, Regina Pitaro, FCRH ’76—the largest gift in Fordham University’s history and one that pushed the Gabelli School’s Centennial Campaign nearly halfway toward its goal—the program will be expanded so more students can participate. Juniors, seniors, and graduate students will now manage a new alternative investment fund and an ESG fund, learning “how to manage money in an even more responsible way,” Rapaccioli said.

New M.B.A. and Ph.D. Scholarships
Advanced education will be even more accessible to qualified students of all backgrounds, regardless of their incomes through new scholarships. In fact, Gabelli and Pitaro are matching dollar-for-dollar scholarship gifts for M.B.A. and Ph.D. students, up to $7 million.

According to Iftekhar Hasan, Ph.D., university professor, and E. Gerald Corrigan Chair in International Business and Finance and the program director, the gift will also enrich thought leadership in the Gabelli School’s Ph.D. program.

the gift will help to create the next generation of diverse, innovative, globally focused business educators and leaders who will work to solve the most challenging problems of the 21st century.
“The program situates our students at the forefront of business research but also at a crossroads of related disciplines,” he explained, adding that this is vitally important in today’s competitive job market. The gift will invite “the most accomplished academics in the world of varied disciplines beyond core business focus—such as business ethics, social justice, [and] social and intellectual diversity and heterogeneity—to teach and interact with our students.”

Doctoral students will also have new opportunities for research and networking made possible through their participation in more national and international conferences. This is critical to the success of young academics, Hasan said, since visibility and exposure are an important part of their education. “Our students must understand the place they have in the global community, and it is our responsibility to send them out into the world as ethical and well-informed, committed academic representatives.”

A Fordham education holds special meaning to Gabelli and Pitaro. The chairman and CEO of GAMCO Investors, Inc., Gabelli grew up in the Bronx, attended Fordham Prep, and later earned a bachelor’s degree in business at Fordham University and an M.B.A. at Columbia Business School. Pitaro, an alumna and a trustee fellow of Fordham University, holds a master’s degree from Loyola University Chicago and also earned an M.B.A. at Columbia. Over 10 years, the couple has given more than $65 million in gifts and pledges to the school that now bears Gabelli’s name.

“Education requires faculty, facilities, financing, and great students. We are privileged to support our Fordham alma mater.”
“The underpinning of meritocracy is education,” he said. “Education requires faculty, facilities, financing, and great students. We are privileged to support our Fordham alma mater.”
Bringing Industry into the Classroom
Looking ahead, Rapaccioli said the gift will help evolve the business curriculum, invigorate faculty research, and infuse classrooms with high-tech tools, such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

The funding will likewise support programs that focus on diverse thought, like Discover Gabelli: Diversity Week, a collaboration with the Black & Latinx MBA Association, Gabelli Pride, Fordham Women in Business, and the Fordham Veterans Association. M.S. and M.B.A. students learn about the Gabelli School’s focus on inclusion and about representation in financial services, marketing, media, entertainment, and the technology fields.

“We are partnering with industry to make sure whatever’s happening in the world is also happening in our classrooms,” Rapaccioli said. “At the same time, we have this stable core of ethical, compassionate leadership, a humanistic side that focuses on our Jesuit tenets.”

Ultimately, she said, the gift will help to create the next generation of diverse, innovative, globally focused business educators and leaders who will “work to solve the most challenging problems of the 21st century.”

Mario Gabelli
A Pledge to Give
Mario Gabelli, BS ’65, was the first member of his family to go to college, a milestone made possible because of a scholarship he had received to Fordham University. He was class president of the business school and graduated summa cum laude with a degree in business administration. In 1977, he founded GAMCO Investors, and Gabelli grew the firm into a multi-billion dollar organization.
Dedicated philanthropists, Gabelli and his wife, Regina Pitaro, FCRH ’76, made a public commitment in 2017 to give away most of their wealth as signatories of the Giving Pledge. Established by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, the pledge asks billionaires to commit to giving away at least half of their wealth to charitable programs during their lifetimes.

According to its website, the Giving Pledge was “inspired by the example set by millions of people at all income levels who give generously—and often at great personal sacrifice—to make the world better.” Signatories provide funding for many important global causes, including alleviating poverty, refugee relief, healthcare access, medical research, and environmental sustainability, among others.

Bill Gates headshot
Bill Gates
Warren Buffet headshot
Warren Buffet
“Our family foundation has supported dozens of various causes over these many years, but our main focus is on education,” Gabelli wrote in his pledge letter. “Clearly, it is the single most important thing that helped me achieve financial success.”

Gabelli was also inspired by the words of the late football coach Vince Lombardi, FCRH ’37, who once said, “The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.”

“For me personally,” he wrote, “Lombardi’s words sum up my desire to give back to the ecosystem that helped me at every stepping stone of my life.”