A native Staten Islander, Donald Spiro graduated from Wagner College in 1949. He became a lifelong supporter of the College, one of its most generous donors, and a key player in its success. As chairman of the Wagner Board of Trustees during the 1990s, Don Spiro oversaw the College’s renaissance. The leadership, guidance, and support of Donald Spiro and of his wife, fellow Wagner graduate Dr. Evelyn Lindfors Spiro ’49 H’92, have made Wagner College into the thriving institution it is today.
“Throughout his life, and particularly at Wagner College, Don Spiro set the highest standards for leadership, achievement, and integrity,” said President Richard Guarasci. “He was the key component in resurrecting the College from its financial and leadership challenges in its weakest hour in the 1980s and ’90s. He inspired so many of us to live up to his vision for a College based on excellence, substance, and resilience.”
Donald was born on December 5, 1925, in Staten Island, New York, to Edward and Emily Spiro. He attended Port Richmond High School in Staten Island, graduating in 1943. He served as an aviation cadet in the United States Army Air Force during World War II, from 1943 to 1945.
He then began his college studies at Wagner. A member of the fraternity Delta Nu and of the honorary society Omicron Delta Kappa, he graduated in 1949 with a B.S. in business administration.
He married his classmate Evelyn Lindfors, a 1949 graduate in nursing. They have three children, Donald (a 1975 Wagner graduate), Corylee, and Kimberly (a current Wagner trustee), and eight grandchildren.
After graduating from Wagner, Donald Spiro worked as manager of his family’s butcher shop and purveyor of marine institutional food, Capitol Market. In 1960, he joined the Dreyfus Corporation as a sales trainee. In 1962, he began his 37-year career with Oppenheimer Management Corporation, starting as a fund representative. Within three years, he had become vice president for sales. In 1968, he was promoted to general partner of the parent company, Oppenheimer & Co. He served as OMC’s president, president of OMC’s funds, and president of Oppenheimer & Co. From 1985 to 1991, he served as chairman of Oppenheimer Management Corporation, and was named chairman emeritus upon stepping down.
For decades, Donald Spiro brought his considerable skills in finance and investments to further the fortunes of Wagner College. The College recognized him with its 1967 Alumni Achievement Award, and he was elected to the Board of Trustees in 1974. He served as board chair from 1989 until 2001, when he was named chair emeritus and lifetime trustee. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1988. The top student honor given each year to a senior at commencement is named the Dr. Donald W. Spiro Award for Outstanding Academic and Co-Curricular Achievements.
During the late 1980s and the 1990s, Don Spiro was a key figure in revitalizing the College. His years as board chairman were marked by growing enrollment and increasing financial stability. They were also the College’s most successful fundraising years to date, in no small measure because of his own generosity. He and Evelyn made many financial gifts, including student scholarships and major renovations to classrooms, the computer center, and athletic facilities. Most notably, the Spiros helped fund the 93,000-square-foot student recreation center, the Spiro Sports Center, in 1998. The communications center, where they made possible a major computer center upgrade, was also named in their honor in 1992.
Donald and Evelyn Spiro’s many gifts to nursing and biomedical education at Wagner are also notable. In 2005, Wagner opened the Evelyn Lindfors Spiro Nursing Resource Center, a state-of-the-art learning laboratory for student nurses. In 2006, Wagner’s department of nursing was named the Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing. In addition, in 2006, the Spiros founded the Wagner/Johns Hopkins/Spiro Partnership, which allows Wagner’s nursing and biology students to complete 10-week summer internships at the hospital and biomedical laboratories of Johns Hopkins University. Scores of students have benefited from this program.
In addition to Wagner College, the Spiros’ philanthropic beneficiaries have included Carnegie Mellon University; St. Clare’s Hospital in Denville, New Jersey, where Evelyn once served as a nurse; the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston; Johns Hopkins University, where they endowed the Benjamin S. Carson, Sr., M.D., and Dr. Evelyn Spiro, R.N., Professorship in Pediatric Neurosurgery; and other causes related to health and human services. Donald also served on the steering committee for the rehabilitation of Carnegie Hall in Manhattan, and he served on the board of the Salvation Army of Greater New York.
A memorial service for Don Spiro will be held on Thursday, August 3, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., at Smoke Rise Community Church, 38 N Road, Kinnelon, NJ 07405. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be made to the Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing at Wagner College.