John N. Tognino, FCLS ’75, PAR
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Pepper Financial Group, Chair of the Board
Fordham University figured prominently in John Tognino's life long before he became chairman of its Board of Trustees, and long before he even entered its gates as a student.
As a child growing up in the Bronx, he lived in the shadow of Fordham, which served as a symbol of excellence and achievement that stoked the dreams of Tognino and his neighborhood peers.
“I think many of us had two or three lifelong ambitions,” he says. “One would certainly be to attend Fordham University, which we grew up with. And the second was always to achieve and to obtain a college education.
“I think that I have always been attracted to the academic excellence that's associated with Fordham University,” he says.
Tognino would follow a nontraditional route to meeting that goal. For economic reasons, he had to forego college after graduating from high school. He went to work on Wall Street and established his career. But his college dreams survived, and after 15 years in the work force, he enrolled in Fordham’s evening division and earned his degree summa cum laude.
Today, he has five decades of experience in the securities industry. He worked for 35 years at Merrill Lynch, serving in various roles including managing director for international equities during a three-year stint in London. He worked for NASDAQ as executive vice president and head of global sales and member affairs, and today serves as chairman and chief executive officer of Pepper Financial Group.
His gifts to Fordham include the Tognino Family Endowed Scholarship, which supports nontraditional students, and the Tognino Endowment for Disability Services. In 2007 he and his wife, Norma, gave a $3.5 million gift to the University. The Great Hall at Duane Library on the Rose Hill campus was renamed in their honor.
He also gives back to the community where he grew up, serving as vice chairman of the St. Barnabas Hospital Board of Trustees and president of the Board of Directors at Union Community Health Center, a St. Barnabas affiliate.
He seeks to help create a stronger culture of philanthropy to enhance institutions like Fordham that have moved society forward. Looking back on how he grew at Fordham, he wants to extend that opportunity to future generations.
“We have an obligation, a responsibility, to do whatever we can to make sure that the doors of this institution are always open ... that we're going to give all, everyone, regardless of where they come from, the opportunity to get an education, the opportunity to achieve what their full potential is,” he says.