Look up Bob Peirano ’50 in Wagner’s alumni files, and you’ll find two thick folders, a testament to his unwavering support and generosity during the past 65 years.
He has supported every program and fundraising effort since the 1960s. Whether it was sports teams, theater, the library, the College’s general fund — if he was asked, he made a gift. If Wagner needed a letter endorsed, he signed it. If Wagner needed ideas, he brainstormed. He has also made estate plans to leave his house to the College. And he and his wife, Muriel, still attend every home football and basketball game.
In 2008, the Alumni Association bestowed the well-deserved honor of naming him the John “Bunny” Barbes ’39 and Lila T. Barbes ’40 Wagner Alumni Laureate, the College’s most prestigious service award.
A few years ago, a write-up about Peirano in the newsletter of the Heritage Society captures this man’s vibrant personality and the sweep of his history at Wagner:
In 1944, Robert Peirano “walked up the pathway from Van Duzer Street — the back way — through Cunard Hall” and registered for accelerated coursework at Wagner College.
“I lived in Stapleton, and every day for three months walked up to go to school,” he recalls, until the Army called and he found himself landing in Le Havre, France, boarding a train bound for Germany, and landing in the front lines of World War II.
“When I got back, in 1947, there were 2,800 students on the campus and Jeeps flying everywhere,” Bob says, referring to the students drawn to college by the benefits of the G.I. Bill, and to the surplus of Army vehicles they took advantage of. Bob spent the next few years at Wagner, received his education, and found time to be a star member of Wagner’s baseball team.
“My last year, Mr. Stutz (then head of Wagner maintenance) hired us athletes to make $.50 an hour to work on the grounds. In 1949, my last year, one of the last things we did was to sod the whole football field and construct the baseball field.”
Bob renewed his affiliation with Wagner’s athletic program years later, after a career as an efficiency expert with Ford Motor, Mack Trucks, and American Express that took him to New Jersey, Michigan, and Maryland. He became the men’s golf coach for 12 years. He also founded and helped lead the Sal Alberti Memorial Golf Classic for many years, raising more than $500,000 for the College. He entered the Athletics Hall of Fame in 2004.
On his gift of his home to the college, Bob says, “We didn’t have any direct heirs. We have a lot of nieces and nephews, and you don’t want anybody to feel left out.” He and his wife, Muriel, considered how best to “be remembered to the College.” They decided to take advantage of the IRS “remainder interest in a personal residence.”
He adds that he hopes others would “do the same darn thing.”