The Profile of a Music Donor: A Case Study at University of Delaware

The University of Delaware (UD) recently received a $5 million commitment from Donald J. Puglisi and his wife Marichu C. Valencia toward the Donald J. Puglisi and Marichu C. Valencia Music Enrichment Fund. The money will continue to support an unrestricted endowed fund that the couple established in 2010 for the Department of Music.

There are a couple of interesting things about this campus music gift, including the fact that neither Puglisi nor Marichu attended UD. Puglisi holds degrees from Michigan State University and Indiana University, and established Puglisi & Associates in 1973. 

How did music end up in this financier's portolio?

Puglisi & Associates is headquartered in Newark, Delaware, about a mile away from the University of Delaware's campus. Often, we write about non-alum donors who slowly get pulled into an institution's orbit as they conduct business in the area and develop relationships with the broader community. It's definitely safe to say that Puglisi was familiar with University of Delaware brass, as he served on the faculty of the school for 30 years. While at UD, Puglisi focused on areas like corporate finance, as well as securities analysis and portfolio management.

Yes, university faculty can also be a source of campus cash, and we've written about this particular set of donors before. In a way, some of these donors might have a stronger relationship with a school than an alum, as they're physically on campus for a longer time. When Puglisi was named MBNA America Professor of Business in 1992, he established the John F. Puglisi Scholarship in honor of his father using the stipend from the professorship. Puglisi also established the Donald J. Puglisi Scholarship Award. 

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Still, these efforts are in the realm of finance and business and don't fully explain why Puglisi has supported music at University of Delaware. Part of the reason is that he's simply a fan of it. As he says, "Music has long been an important part of my life... I hope this gift will help UD attract both music majors and other students interested in participating in UD's outstanding music programs and help those students grow as musicians and as individuals."

In addition, Puglisi's parents play a role. Besides the John F. Puglisi Scholarship, UD is also home to Puglisi Orchestra Hall, named in honor of John and Josephine Puglisi, who were avid supporters of music education. Puglisi has spoken about the strong role his father played in his giving before, "My father strongly believed in education. His parents came from Italy and did not speak English, but he and his sisters went to college, where he studied chemistry. He became a teacher and later worked in industry... He also believed in giving back to the community through his church and in other ways." 

Clearly these motivations continue to animate Puglisi's philanthropy, and are a factor in the couple's latest gift to the University of Delaware. Valencia adds, "We believe music is a universal language that has a transformative effect on people... It is our hope that this gift will help to further enrich the lives of our students, faculty and community, as well as encourage future generations to support the arts.”

The couple’s $5 million commitment will support many activities in the music department including student ensembles, visiting professors, and guest artists.