Sal DiFonzo Jr. ’89
My sister, Christina DiFonzo ’92, and I were born in Chicago and grew up mostly in the northwest suburb of Crystal Lake, Illinois. Our father was born near Rome, Italy, into a peasant farming family, and our mother was born to a cobbler and homemaker in Calabria, Italy. Our parents are retiring this year. They married, both at age 18, after meeting each other as co-workers at an auto parts factory in Chicago. My father became a Chevrolet auto mechanic for 48 years, and my mother spent her working career in retail jobs at K-Mart and Walgreens.
I manage an office of 11 employees in Scottsdale, Arizona, and lead the compensation business unit of FMI Corporation. Chris took a uniquely entrepreneurial path out of Cornell. She holds the distinct honor of never having interviewed for a job or worked for anybody since graduating. Chris earned her real estate license straight out of school and has led a successful career in the real estate industry, including starting her own real estate company at one point with husband Rich. Chris lives in Woodstock, Illinois, and works for ReMax.
A unique distinction about us is that we both graduated early from Cornell. I graduated in three years without previous, summer, or transfer credits, by taking nine blocks a year with additional elective classes. Chris graduated in three and a third years. Our motivation was mostly economic. Cornell’s scholarship aid to us was critical in our ability to attend. Shaving off a year of tuition really helped us financially.
I chose Cornell because of One Course At A Time and the small class sizes. Chris jumped ship from the University of Iowa a month before classes started, based on the positive experience I was having on campus after two years.
Chris became fluent in Spanish and lived with a family in Morelia, Mexico, during her time at Cornell. She also built great relationships with her Theta social group. She tackled some difficult advanced business courses that gave her increased confidence. She had no fear in striking out on her own after college and has never looked back or felt a need to network for a job.
My memories of Cornell are still vivid. It is a place where I learned to think, reason, write and communicate effectively. The personal relationships I had there still endure. I attend an annual ski trip with six or seven Cornellians every year and keep in contact with even more. The environment at Cornell also allowed me to assume leadership roles in various student organizations. It was great practice for the impending real world.