SUNY Cortland alumnus John Fantauzzi ’58, a retired social studies teacher now living in Cape Coral, Fla., will bequest $5.18 million — the largest individual gift in the College’s 140-year history — to support a scholarship he established in 1990 for children of immigrants and first-generation college students attending SUNY Cortland.
“This is a transformative gift that will forever change the lives of future Cortland students who will have the opportunity to obtain a first-rate education at SUNY Cortland,” said SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum.
“John realizes that SUNY Cortland gave him the life skills to become a wonderful teacher and he wants to ensure that extraordinary experience for future first generation students and for those students, like him, whose parents or grandparents came to this country seeking the American dream.”
Fantauzzi’s generosity to his alma mater began in 1988, when he gave $50,000 to the College to have its recently renovated Old Main auditorium named in honor of his favorite Cortland mentor, the late Distinguished Teaching Professor of History Ralph Adams Brown.
Two years later, Fantauzzi, the son of Italian immigrants and an ardent admirer of the immigrant work ethic, created the John Fantauzzi ’58 Scholarship at SUNY Cortland. The award, which soon expanded from a three-year to a four-year full scholarship, was presented to Cortland students who maintained a 2.7 or higher GPA and who were children and/or grandchildren of immigrants to the United States.
“Also at that time, John informed then-President James Clark of his intent to leave his entire estate to the John Fantauzzi ’58 Scholarship Fund,” explained Doug DeRancy ’75, assistant to the vice president for institutional advancement, who has been the College’s liaison with Fantauzzi for the past 22 years.
“John is an extremely generous individual,” added DeRancy. “He committed in 1990 to make an annual gift to establish an endowment in his lifetime that would support and grow his scholarship. Today, the Fantauzzi Scholarship annually provides 10 students with $3,400 annually for each of the four years they attend SUNY Cortland.”
Since its inception in 1990, the scholarship fund had grown to $700,000 as a result of Fantauzzi’s philanthropy. With the addition of the endowment, the fund will total nearly $6 million.
To date, more than 50 Cortland students have received a scholarship. The recipients trace their national origins to countries located in Europe, Asia, North and Central America.
“ Many of the scholarship winners have written John to express their appreciation and some continue to communicate with him after graduating from Cortland,” explained DeRancy. “John has told me that the greatest gift is creating the opportunity for someone to go to college and get an education. In his view, it is a gift that keeps on giving.”
“I hope that John’s belief in his alma mater will inspire others to invest in the future of this fine institution,” added Raymond Franco ’72, vice president for institutional advancement at SUNY Cortland.
Born in Syracuse, N.Y., Fantauzzi graduated from Vocational High School. At SUNY Cortland, he was among the first wave of students to earn the new degree in secondary social studies teaching. In addition to Ralph Adams Brown, Fantauzzi considered both Distinguished Professor of English Van Akin Burd and Professor of History Gilbert Cahill to be influential teachers in his chosen professional career.