Entrepreneur & philanthropist Gabriel Battista honored with posthumous honorary degree by the American University of Rome

Dec 04, 2020 335

Ex-Chairman of The American University of Rome and the National Italian American Foundation, Gabriel (Gabe) Battista, has been posthumously awarded the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters Honoris Causa. Gabriel Battista was the Chairman of AUR’s trustees from 2012 to 2020 and a Board member since 2006. Gabriel’s son, Stephen Battista, accepted the degree on his father’s behalf. 

On presenting the degree, President Emeritus, Dr. Richard Hodges stated “Gabe filled a room with his strong voice and laughter, with his tales and with his creative will to get things done. He has left us too soon, “at the point of inflection”, as he always said, “with the best yet to come”. The entire community of AUR took energy from this heroic spirit. His humanity, intelligence, and steadfast loyalty were supreme qualities. Above all the university has benefited from his friendship, passion and unwavering integrity.” 

The son of an Italian businessman from Molise, Gabe grew up in West Philadelphia in an Italian neighborhood. His parents urged him to study, to have a career. To fund his university education he worked in one of ACME’s industrial bakeries. This afforded him the chance to pursue classes in engineering at Villanova University. Engineering was to be his calling, as he liked to say proudly: ordering and structuring things was the essence of his life, always seeking positive outcomes.  

Gabe served as president of Sprint’s Eastern Group before joining Cable & Wireless, Inc. as president, becoming their CEO for North America. Under his leadership he led the company towards expansion, establishing and growing a global Internet infrastructure. Ever restless, Gabe next became CEO of Network Solutions, where he led the company’s initial public offering on the NASDAQ. Following this he served as president, chairman, and CEO of Talk America for six years, transforming the company from a small telecommunications provider to a profitable corporation. In 2004 Ernst & Young named Gabriel Battista the Communications Entrepreneur of the Year for the Greater Washington Area. 

In his late fifties, Gabe felt he had spent enough time in business. It no longer held the same fascination for him. So, he retired and with the same urgency that had characterized his business career, sought out new adventures in the world of philanthropy. 

Given his personal history, it was a natural step to join the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF). This, in turn, provided him with a world of friendships rooted in a heritage that resembled his own. 

In 2006, through NIAF members, he was introduced to The American University of Rome, and with characteristic commitment took it to his heart. He was captivated by AUR’s Film and Digital Media program and promptly both joined the AUR Board of Trustees and funded AUR’s Media Lab (later named in his honor). Simply put from his engineering and business background: “I saw the University’s potential and believed in its development”.

In 2012 he assumed the chairmanship of the trustees, and over almost two terms, he was a steadfast leader. He oversaw academic growth and above all the making of a genuine international university. Each year at commencement he was demonstrably proud and genuinely thrilled for AUR’s students.

As Dr. Hodges noted: “Just to say the name, Gabe, conjured up an image in our community. He was our leader and our friend, but far more. A transparently passionate man, Gabe was an advocate, an adventurer in life, and a lover of all things Italian.”

He continued: “An Italian- American story, he leaves his heart in the Mezzogiorno of Italy and those old neighborhoods of Philadelphia, his head for business on the many entrepreneurial and philanthropic ventures he has championed, and a truly indelible mark on AUR. 

SOURCE: The American University of Rome

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