January 04, 2010
January 2010--The Deans, Faculty, Administrators and Staff of
The Peter J. Tobin College of Business are mourning the death, and
celebrating the life, of one of its finest finance faculty members,
Professor Donald Pitti.
An article that was published in InvestmentNews sums up
the life of Professor Pitti best and we are reposting that article
"Remembering a Life of Passion"
By Hilary Johnson
January 3, 2010, 6:01 AM EST
If there is one word to describe Donald Robert Pitti, the
financial planning pioneer who died Dec. 18 at the age of 80, it
would be “enthusiasm.”
At InvestmentNews, that enthusiasm was especially appreciated,
since he helped launch the paper in 1997 and remained a consultant
and a member of its advisory board up until his death.
Mr. Pitti's colleagues and friends — not to mention his wife of
55 years, Grace — all spoke of the passion he brought to everything
he did, from his work, to volunteering with children in his
hometown of Manhasset, N.Y., to playing beach volleyball on the
Long Island shore.
Mr. Pitti was born Sept. 15, 1929, in New York. As a youth, he
spent his summers in Rocky Point, N.Y., on the North Shore of Long
Island. It was there that he met Grace Curtis, his future wife,
when he was 17 and she was 14. “He just always stood out above the
crowd, and I had good taste,” Mrs. Pitti remembered with a
The 6-foot-2-inch Mr. Pitti joined the Navy when he was 18,
served for a year and then enrolled in New York University. Called
back to serve in the Korean War, he spent his tour of duty on the
USS Midway in the Mediterranean. “That experience really opened up
a whole world to him,” said Mrs. Pitti, who married her husband in
Mr. Pitti loved opera, especially the works of Puccini and
Verdi, but his taste wasn't just highbrow — he had a special
fondness for Willie Nelson songs, too, his wife said.
Donald Robert Pitti: Helped launch InvestmentNews in 1997.
When Mr. Pitti returned to NYU to study journalism, he became
editor of the college newspaper and worked two jobs at night, one
as an usher at Radio City Music Hall, and the other as a “soda
jerk” at Schrafft's, a popular restaurant chain at the time. On
weekends, he worked in the men's department at Lord &
“He always had that drive to get ahead, to be better,” Mrs. Pitti
remembered. “Whatever he did, he did with such enthusiasm.”
One of Mr. Pitti's first jobs in the financial services industry
was with Arthur Wiesenberger & Co., a member broker-dealer of
the New York Stock Exchange that published mutual fund research. He
served as president of the firm from 1967 to 1976. When Arthur
Wiesenberger was acquired by John Nuveen & Co., Mr. Pitti
joined the latter firm as a partner and chief marketing officer,
remaining there until 1987.
He went on to serve as chairman and chief executive of Monarch
Financial Services Inc., eventually retiring in December 1994 as a
managing director of J. & W. Seligman & Co., an investment
After he retired, Mr. Pitti became the founding director of the
Financial Services Institute at the Tobin College of Business at
St. John's University in New York, and served as an adjunct
professor of finance.
Throughout his career, Mr. Pitti was admired and respected for
his service to the financial planning profession. He was a member
of the Financial Planning Association and its predecessor
organizations since 1969, the same year he helped start the College
for Financial Planning. He was chairman of the Foundation for
Financial Planning from 1994 to 2000. The FPA presented him with
the P. Kemp Fain Jr. Award for outstanding contributions to the
profession in 2008.
Many of his colleagues remember him especially for spearheading
a volunteer effort after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. He
helped raise about $12 million to allow financial planners to
provide free advice for the families of victims.
REPUTATION A KEY
Alexandra Armstrong, chairman of Armstrong Fleming & Moore
Inc., recalled that Mr. Pitti's reputation meant a lot during the
“That we were able to raise money in that environment was a good
example of his credibility,” she said. “Don had this uncanny way of
anticipating situations and thinking about how things could be done
better, and moving to do things better.”
Marvin W. Tuttle Jr., executive director and CEO of the FPA,
said that Mr. Pitti always had a passion for spreading the word
about financial planning. “He saw that this could be a profession
that would be very useful to the average American,” Mr. Tuttle
said. “That was something that just possessed him.”
A longtime acquaintance, Tim Kochis, former chief executive and
future chairman of the wealth management firm Aspiriant, said: “He
was, up to the very end, an enormously energetic and insightful
person, with almost a childlike enthusiasm about the future of the
financial planning and wealth management business. Our industry has
lost a true giant.”
Mr. Pitti is survived by his wife, his children, Robert Pitti
and Gail Cerick; his son-in-law, Richard Cerick; his
daughter-in-law, Anne Pitti; and his grandchildren, Matthew, Julie,
Mark and Scott Cerick, and Samantha and Joseph Pitti.