John M. Fantauzzi '58 M '60

John M. Fantauzzi '58 M '60

John Fantauzzi ’58, M ’60, a retired social studies teacher, is known for his ability to monitor the stock market — a skill surpassed only by his generosity towards SUNY Cortland students. The Cape Coral, Fla., resident is the most generous philanthropist in the College’s history, supporting a scholarship for hundreds of first-generation college students with more than $6.6 million.

SUNY Cortland’s Fantauzzi Scholars receive roughly $16,000 in scholarship money over four years. Most are first generation undergraduates. All are the children or grandchildren of immigrants or immigrants themselves. Since it was established in 1991, the Fantauzzi Scholarship has been awarded to more than 200 students. It seeks to eventually fund upwards of 40 Fantauzzi Scholars each year.

Fantauzzi himself was a first generation college student — the son of Italian immigrants, a child of the Great Depression and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. At SUNY Cortland, he became one of the first students to earn a degree in secondary social studies teaching and also took a finance course that gave him his first taste of investing. Although Fantauzzi was a teacher by trade in the Rome (N.Y.) City School District for 21 years, a combination of his goal-oriented investment strategy and his penchant to save crafted his legacy. Fantauzzi never married or had children, but he retired from teaching by age 46 with more than $400,000 saved.

Business leaders near and far planted the initial ideas for the SUNY Cortland scholarship in his name. A. Buol Hinman, late president of a steel company in Rome, N.Y., and an investor with Fantauzzi in the same local business, built a reputation funding the college educations of his immigrant employees. Lee Iacocca, pioneer of the automotive industry and former head of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, inspired Fantauzzi by raising private funds for the restoration of a national icon. Even the lessons of business magnate Warren Buffett, which rest on the principle of return on investment, guide Fantauzzi’s present day decision making.

In the late 1980s, Fantauzzi reconnected with his alma mater and gave S50,000 to have the College’s renovated Old Main auditorium named in honor of one of his favorite Cortland mentors, the late Distinguished Teaching Professor of History Ralph Adams Brown.

From there, the benefits of Fantauzzi’s generosity mushroomed. His gifts came to the College in the form of stock and they eventually turned into SUNY Cortland’s most transformative scholarship, one that is reserved for some of its hardest working and most promising students.

The value of Fantauzzi’s gifts to SUNY Cortland are expected to eventually exceed $10 million, although those who know Fantauzzi best recognize him for something far greater.

“You’d never know all that he’s accomplished, all that he’s done, just by looking at him and how he lives,” remarked a former scholarship recipient who seized the opportunity to thank Fantauzzi in person. “With Mr. Fantauzzi, you have to look closer.”

That’s when you see it’s about the man, not just the money.