I spoke with him two days before he left us.  As we were planning a dinner with our spouses, it never occurred to me that in a few days I would write these words with a shaky hand and heavy heart.  This is by no means a complete biography, which I am sure would take pages, but rather an explanation of why so many of us cared about him.

Don Pitti was the CEO of Wall Street firm Seligman and Co.  He advised several firms, and in October 2008 the Financial Planning Association awarded him the P. Kemp Fain Jr. Award, for those who uphold the core values of competence, integrity, relationships and stewardship.  This was clear evidence that years after retirement from the industry, he still commanded a great respect from his fellow professionals.

Don retired from Seligman in 1995 and he was appointed by St. John's University President Donald Harrington to organize the Financial Services Institute. Over time this institute was reorganized to include Tobin College of Business faculty.  The institute, under Don's leadership, organized lectures, contributed to the training of international priests, and since 2006 has offered an annual symposium where research papers on financial topics are presented.  Don volunteered his time for all of these activities.

Don was instrumental in contributing to the student managed investment fund-a very specific class where students invest actual money-by teaching it.  He was always helpful and kind to his students and when he met students at outside activities, he would make sure that he conversed with everyone and followed up with them by e-mails long after he met them.  When I asked Don to help me organize a business plan for the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, his usual jolly response was, "We'll make sure that they prosper in the future," and they certainly did.

As a young man, Don would often go to jazz clubs in the 1950s and stay long into the night, not just to listen.  In the early hours of the morning he would uncover his trumpet, and the old timers would invite him on stage, sensing his love and eagerness to learn-yes, he could say that he played with the great ones.

He was an active member of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, giving his hand to many of their causes and he served a their treasurer.  As an investor in many plays, he would often tell me, "You know this is an investment."  But I knew him better: He was determined to help many people, including those who struggle in the art world.

So what kind of man was he?  Whether he was having a slice of pizza with me, a bowl of soup with the priest in charge of his old elementary school in Astoria, or eating dinner in a five-star restaurant, his exuberance was the same.  As we enter a new year, the season of joy just ended will always remind me of his joy in all the things he did and the great generosity of his time and effort.

If you permit me, I will venture a guess about what our friend Don is doing in heaven.  He is having a meeting with financial professionals about how they let the clients down in a crisis, when clients "needed you most."  It is most distressing to see people in your own profession act irresponsibly, whatever the reason, he would say.  In the afternoon, he will tell the young students about how to make important decisions or how to improve a business outcome. In the evening, he will go the opera, and in the wee hours he'll get on stage with Satchmo and play second trumpet.

Don, it was a joy to know you.

Igor M. Tomic
Academic Director
Financial Services Institute
Tobin College of Business
St. John's University