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Donors who bring the world closer to Western students

Industrialist and philanthropist Constantine (Deno) Macricostas recalls from his youth in Greece when the world seemed a much larger and wider place than it is today.

“When I was a boy, it took 14 hours to travel from my mother’s village to a place just 100 miles away,” Macricostas recalled. “Today the whole world now is smaller: In a few days, I’ll be flying on business to Korea, and I’ll be able to get there in 14 hours.”

Macricostas, founder and chairman of Brookfield-based Photronics Inc., has believed passionately for many years in the need to bring the world closer to the students of WCSU. Through the generosity of the $1.1 million gift of the Macricostas Family Foundation to the university in 2003, Deno and his wife Marie have made possible a diversity of programs to raise international awareness including guest lectures and an endowed chair in Hellenic and modern Greek studies. This spring they provided a grant to support the trip organized by the WCSU Center for the Study of Culture and Values to enable students to view the exhibition “Transition to Christianity: Art of Late Antiquity” at the Onassis Foundation USA in New York.

As the chairman of a multinational company with overseas operations in Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and the United Kingdom, Macricostas is well aware of the importance of training a workforce in the United States prepared to understand and compete successfully in an interdependent global economy. He observed that Americans cannot afford to adopt a U.S.-centered view of the world in the face of continuing shifts in population and economic imporance toward emerging powers such as China, India and Brazil.

“The globe has shrunk, and if you want to be successful, you’ve got to be aware of the world,” Macricostas said. “You will most likely have to travel outside the United States and, if you do, then it is good to prepare by educating yourself in what is beyond our borders. That’s true in business, in diplomacy, even in the armed forces – today our service men and women are deployed all over the world, and it’s important for them to understand foreign cultures.”

Kathie Azzariti also appreciates the impact that developments in a distant country can have on the United States, and she has found a way to help in promoting a global perspective through her gifts to honor the Italian heritage of her late husband, John. The Azzaritis already had become engaged in supporting WCSU through John’s involvement as managing partner of the KPMG practice in Stamford with the accounting program of the Ancell School of Business.

 “I wanted to give back to the university and the community,” Azzariti said, “by offering a program on the area of Italy where John had his roots,” the Puglia region along the Adriatic coast in the southeast where John’s parents were born. Sponsored by that gift, WCSU Adjunct Professor Patrizia Farina last year organized and presented a special program on Puglia for the John F. Azzariti Memorial Lecture at the university during 2011.

Azzariti expressed a strong appreciation for Farina’s ability to share her knowledge and passion for Italian culture. She showed that gratitude in a special way by providing financial support for the three-week WCSU student trip led by Farina to Florence during the 2011-12 winter intersession break to study Italian and tour diverse cultural and historic sites in central Italy.

“Nothing can compare to being there, making connections to the history, the culture and the people,” Azzariti said. She cited the quote from the “Collect for Clubwomen” by Mary Stewart that urges people “to strive, to touch, and to know the great common human heart of us all.” Her hope in supporting travel abroad, she said, is that the experience will help students to attain that goal.

She believes strongly in the need for students today to gain a more comprehensive and direct appreciation and understanding for the world around them.

“A butterfly may flutter its wings in one corner of the world, and cause a typhoon in another,” she said. “As the financial troubles in Greece, Italy, Ireland and other economies have shown, we are all in this together. Conflicts in the Middle East and Far East challenge our understanding of history, religion and culture.

“We must keep up with the rapidly changing world,” Azzariti observed. “It is beneficial to our own survival to give our children — the students at this university — the roots and wings to meet new challenges. We must give them the tools, inspiration and opportunity to reach new heights, and make the world one.” 

Cover photo: Donor Deno Macricostas (left) most recently supported a trip for students to the Onassis Center in NYC.
Above photo: Donor Kathie Azzariti lectures on the Puglia region of Italy to students and guests.       

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