Gordon and Lorraine Di Paolo have been quite successful in their respective careers—Gordon has been an Associate Professor of Business at the College of Staten Island since 1971 and has had a career in marketing and sales for the Revlon Corporation, and Lorraine is the President of Benchmark Capital Advisors on Wall Street in New York. More importantly, the Di Paolos believe in sharing their success to help others achieve and, as a result, they will be among the honorees at this Saturday’s first-ever Celestial Ball, a fundraiser, sponsored by the Alumni Association, CSI Foundation, and Friends of CSI, to support scholarships at the College.
Just as the Ball seeks to raise funds for scholarships, the most visible beneficiaries of the Di Paolos’ philanthropy have been students at CSI, as the couple has established three annual scholarships for international study, marketing, and management. “We started with the international travel,” Gordon Di Paolo recalls. “My wife and I have done a good deal of traveling in our lives and we seem to think that exposure to other cultures is a most desirable opportunity for the students to grow. In addition, when we started this one, there was a great emphasis on the Office for International Service having study abroad programs. So this was an attempt to have students participate in study abroad and … be exposed to the rest of the world…The other two started simply because I teach management and marketing and we wanted to provide a mechanism for recognizing achievement in those particular areas.”
The selection criteria for these scholarships, which have been in place for about ten years, is also a bit different, according to Gordon. The chief factor is “not necessarily the highest [grade point average]. Most scholarships will look to the great scholars. I’m looking here more to recognize students who have grown over the last three years or so and who have achieved something. They’re the stand-out students, but not necessarily by GPA. [They have] demonstrated leadership capability, communications skills, perhaps some involvement in community, involvement in the College community in their personal lives, things of that sort.”
In addition, Di Paolo adds, “these are students probably to whom we have been exposed. We’ve seen them in our classes and therefore they stand out in our minds—there’s a little committee that determines this—as those who seem to have blossomed or grown or have great promise for success because of interpersonal skills and behavioral characteristics, attitudes, things of that sort.”
Scholarships, however, are not the only things that the Di Paolos support on campus. “We support the Office of Disability Services [and] the students who are disabled,” Gordon says. “I’m disabled, so it’s a reflection of that a little bit and it’s an attempt to help them have a more positive college experience.
“Over the years,” he continues, “we’ve given money to the Media Center for installing one of their laboratories. We’ve given money to the Registrar’s Office for some signs that they have outside that help them process students a little bit more effectively and efficiently. We’ve given money to the Advisement Office as well. In addition, we’ve given to various offices around the College as the need arose. The attempt always was to try to find support for a project that somehow fell through the cracks where the budget process was not able to provide for it, so I said, ‘Maybe I can provide for that.’”
Why does Gordon Di Paolo think that it’s important to give back to an institution like CSI? “It’s the source of our revenue. They pay the checks that represent our salaries. But, that’s not [the main] reason. I think it serves as a role model for others to do this kind of thing. If we show commitment, then conceivably that commitment will be shared by others who are maybe less inclined to even think about making a financial commitment to the school…I think the College needs as much support as it possibly can get and we try to provide some sort of leadership or symbol that it’s a good thing to do.”
For more information on the CSI Celestial Ball, call the CSI Office of Institutional Advancement at 718.982.2365.