Prep students who studied Asian history may be familiar with a line from Lao Tzu: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” This simple statement has strong meaning to many Prep alumni who have emotional connections to the school and are looking for ways to give back to their school, but often times don’t know how. Tino Clemente ’54 P ’85, graduate and father of a graduate, is a fine example of someone who reconnected with the school and figured out how to give back to the Prep in a way that many alumni can use as an example for themselves.
Like so many of his Prep brothers, Tino’s early years were rather ordinary. He grew up in the Bronx and attended New York City public schools through eighth grade. His father attended Catholic schools and Fordham University, and he had an uncle that attended the Prep. Both of these factors helped him choose Fordham Prep for high school. Clemente began the all-too-familiar routine of commuting through the Bronx to attend the Prep while learning to navigate the trials and tribulations of life in our borough.
Fordham Prep is committed to the Jesuit ideal of Cura Personalis, care for the whole person. This is reflected in the Ignatian mission of being men for others. This tenet had a profound effect on Clemente during his time at the Prep. He took advantage of all the school had to offer. “I ran track all four years and played all the intramural sports available.” On the track, he was led by head coach Joe Fox, one of the Prep people who had a huge influence on him. “Coach was the best. I really admired him. He taught me the value of hard work.” In the classroom, Clemente cites his Greek and Latin teachers, Mr. DaParma and Fr. Boyle, for his love of the classics and a liberal arts education. The Prep continues to offer Greek and Latin today.
As other Prep graduates often did, he picked his college partly because of the Jesuit influence and his love of the classics. Following his four years in the Bronx, it was on to College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. Clemente recalls the academic rigor at Holy Cross was less demanding than he thought it would be. “The transition academically was easy. The Prep prepared me well academically, and the familiarity with the Jesuits and their values continued to influence my development.” After leaving Worcester with a degree in political science, Clemente attended Columbia Law School and took a job at a Wall Street firm for a few years. But it was the sense of brotherhood and family he saw at the Prep that convinced him to take a job at Pfizer because, as he put it, “I wanted more interaction. I value relationships.” It was this belief in people, learned at the Prep, that would eventually lead him back to his alma mater. While at Pfizer, Tino was involved in many charitable activities and served on the Pfizer Foundation’s board for a number of years.
He served on the Board of Trustees from 1989-1994. He chose to serve because “The Prep was my favorite school whose values and atmosphere I’d always loved.” This service led to an updated perspective on the school, a sobering revelation about the Prep. “Despite my affection for the Prep, I felt it had an insufficient emphasis on science. While at Pfizer, I learned of its importance and the contribution it can make to human life.” His solution was simple, “One of my first, important financial contributions went towards a new science lab.” Clemente had combined his career passion with his love for his alma mater.
“Part of my mission was to emphasize the importance of teaching science and technology alongside the humanities to several Prep Presidents.” Clemente’s words were heeded: recent improvements to the building include the construction of the Boller Science Center in 2010, a new computer and technology center, and a greenhouse on the fourth floor. Through it all, the alumnus and Prep parent has remained humble. “I feel this partnership between science and the humanities has gradually happened and I hope I had some small role in its success.”
When he looks to his future relationship with the Prep, Clemente keeps it simple: “I just hope the school keeps its faith and continues doing what it is doing; namely being proud of its past and confident in its future. The only legacy I look for is in the small amount I can give to enable other boys from varied backgrounds to share the experience of a Prep education. For me, it’s about believing in the Prep’s values and what it teaches about life’s experiences.”