Wagner College paid tribute to Dr. Donald W. Spiro ’49 H’88, chairman emeritus and lifetime member of the Board of Trustees, at a memorial service on October 13.
Spiro died on July 30 at age 91. He was one of the College’s most generous donors and a key player in its success.
“In the 1980s and ’90s, he was determined that this College would not fail,” said President Guarasci. “And not only that, he was determined that this College would aspire to excellence.”
A Staten Island native, Donald Spiro served his country in World War II and then studied business administration at Wagner, choosing it over Princeton. He managed his family’s business, Capitol Market, a butcher shop and purveyor of marine institutional food, before beginning a brilliant career on Wall Street. After a couple of years with the Dreyfus Corporation, he began his 37-year career with Oppenheimer Management Corporation. He started as a fund representative. After three years, he was named vice president for sales. In 1968, he was promoted to general partner. From 1985 to 1991, he served as chairman of Oppenheimer Management Corporation, and was named chairman emeritus upon stepping down.
During the memorial service, Norman Smith, Wagner’s president from 1988 to 2001, recalled that critical moment in 1988 when Spiro stepped in to raise millions of dollars in emergency funds that would keep the College open. “Wagner College would not be here without Don Spiro,” Smith said. Spiro was elected to the Board of Trustees in 1974 and became chairman in 1989. Not only did he give of his own means, but he also recruited other key Wagner alumni to contribute and serve as trustees.
Two of those trustees, Dr. Robert C. O’Brien ’66 H’95 and Dr. John H. Myers ’67 H’02, spoke about Spiro’s business leadership as well as his instrumental role at Wagner.
Myers, the former president and CEO of GE Asset Management, hailed Spiro as a marketing genius, a leader in corporate governance and ethics, a financial products innovator, and a pioneer in hiring women.
“Wagner was very fortunate to have a man like Don Spiro who decided to make a difference here on Grymes Hill,” Myers said. “The legacy he has left at Wagner will live on.”
The names of Donald Spiro and of his wife and college sweetheart, Dr. Evelyn Lindfors Spiro ’49 H’92, mark many key buildings and programs on campus. Their daughter Kimberly Spiro, a current Wagner trustee, explained that “every building has a dream and a meaning.” She spoke of Donald and Evelyn’s deep devotion that inspired their many gifts.
Donald Spiro believed in promoting students’ access to technology and athletic excellence, leading him to fund the College’s first computer lab in the Spiro Communications Center and a major expansion of the Sutter Gymnasium into the Spiro Sports Center. His gifts to the health professions at Wagner were motivated by his love for Evelyn, a nursing graduate. In 2005, Wagner opened the Evelyn Lindfors Spiro Nursing Resource Center. In 2006, Wagner’s department of nursing was named the Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing. In addition, the Spiros funded a summer internship program for Wagner’s nursing and biology students at the hospital and biomedical laboratories of Johns Hopkins University.
Dozens of nursing students and student-athletes attended the memorial service, and the Wagner College Choir provided the music. Another speaker at the service was the Rev. Sarah Barnes ’11, recipient of the Dr. Donald W. Spiro Award for Outstanding Academic and Co-Curricular Achievements, the top student honor awarded each year to a senior at commencement.