The Forum | Philanthropy

Philanthropist’s Corner: Establishing the Pizzagalli Chair of Free Enterprise at University of Vermont

April 22, 2019

Angelo Pizzagalli is a Vermont based business leader and proud supporter of the University of Vermont. In 2017, he contacted ACTA's Fund for Academic Renewal to help craft a gift to the University of Vermont in order to establish the Pizzagalli Chair of Free Enterprise. On Thursday, April 18, 2019, Professor Andrey Ukhov was formally named the inaugural Chair. In celebration of the investiture, Mr. Pizzagalli sat down with the Executive Director for the Fund for Academic Renewal, Dr. Ali Eskandarian, to discuss his gift.

Photo courtesy of Andy Duback

Q: Why was it important to you to donate to the University of Vermont in order to establish the Pizzagalli Chair of Free Enterprise?

A: To promote what I think is important: capitalism, free enterprise, and limited government. These are issues that are not well understood on college campuses today, and I feel that students need to get a better sense of how the world actually works. There was a sense that this sort of programming was lacking at the University of Vermont, so that the addition would be welcome. I saw the gift as an excellent opportunity to promote ideological balance and viewpoint diversity.

Q: There are plenty of sectors that you could have donated to, but you chose higher education. What inspires or motivates you as a higher education philanthropist?

A: In higher education, you have the ability to influence the upcoming generation, and to help shape future leaders and informed voters. There were also certain practical incentives to donate. The University had unused matching funds, so that if I donated, University of Vermont could match my donation, and the overall benefit would be even greater. Higher education, in this scenario, presented a sector where I could have a sizable impact with my donation.

Q: Why did you elicit the help of the Fund for Academic Renewal in crafting your gift?

A: My brother, Jim, knew about ACTA and indicated that they could provide sound advice. So we came down to Washington, DC, for a visit. The people at the Fund for Academic Renewal impressed us. They understood what we were trying to do and gave us assistance in achieving it. FAR really made the process easy, transparent, and seamless. I don’t think that I would have been as successful managing my philanthropy on my own without FAR’s assistance.

Q: What do you hope will be the long term impact of your gift? What’s your vision for the future?

A: Initially, there’s a need to present more balance in the academic setting, which I hope the gift will provide. For the long term, our gift agreement is structured such that it actually expires, which is quite unusual. But, this step was taken intentionally, thinking of the university’s responsibility in the long-term sustainability of the donation. I said “Hey, if you can’t get the job done in 30 years, the gift didn’t work.”


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