The distinguished recipients of the 2020 Champions for Philanthropy awards are Dr. Frank G. Bingham, Jr. ’61, ’72 MBA and Dr. Caryl A. Bingham ’61, ’71 and Bonnie and Richard Leto ’73.
A special Board of Trustees Reception and Philanthropy Celebration, hosted by Campaign Co-Chair Michael E. Fisher ’67, '15H, and Bryant University President Ronald K. Machtley, honoring this year’s Champions for Philanthropy award recipients was held January 17, 2020.
When Expanding the World of Opportunity: The Campaign for Bryant’s Bold Future, the most comprehensive fundraising effort in Bryant’s 156-year history ended on December 31, 2019, a record-breaking a total of $111 million contributed by more than 24,000 donors made this campaign a huge success with extraordinary impact.
The tradition of honoring some of the University’s most generous benefactors as Champions for Philanthropy began in 2009. The 2020 Champions for Philanthropy join an esteemed group of alumni, trustees, parents, and friends of the University whose private philanthropy is an investment in excellence that galvanizes others to join us in a philanthropic partnership that grows stronger each year. That transformative partnership is reflected in the success of future generations of students who are inspired to excel at Bryant.
Dr. Frank G. Bingham, Jr. ’61, ’72 MBA and Dr. Caryl A. Bingham ’61, ’71
Outstanding 1863 Society Champions for Philanthropy
In 1959, after a sheltered private school education, Caryl Whitcher enrolled in Bryant’s two-year Secretarial Program and later returned to graduate with a Business Education degree. Frank Bingham, another member of the Class of 1961, was a licensed clam-digger who worked two part-time jobs seven days a week to pay for tuition and books. The two, from different backgrounds, hit it off and later married.
The confidence Caryl developed at Bryant allowed her to successfully run for president of her sorority, and served her well throughout a career as an award-winning business educator. Frank launched a successful business career.
Caryl went on to earn a Master of Business Education degree from the University of Rhode Island, and a Doctorate in Educational Administration from Vanderbilt University. Over the course of a remarkable 30-year career with the Warwick Public School department, Caryl inspired generations of students. She also served as Chair of the Business Department for 10 years, retiring in 2001.
Bryant continued to shape Frank’s life after graduation. When his junior executive marketing position required an MBA, Frank had trouble getting into a program – until Caryl pointed out a news story about Bryant starting its own. Frank was in Dean Nelson Gulski’s office the next morning at 8 a.m. – sharp. Entrance papers hadn’t even been drawn up yet, but Gulski said this Bryant grad with the “guts” to be seeking admission just hours after the program was announced would be the first admitted MBA student.
Frank’s career included work for Textron, Uniroyal, and Southern Cross Industries (Atlanta), as well as ownership of several businesses, including a large Hallmark retail/wholesale business in New England and a successful Florida real estate development firm. Asked to teach a course in Purchasing and Materials Management, the interaction with students ignited a passion in him and he began a 30-year career as a marketing professor.
Bryant opened new worlds to Caryl and Frank Bingham. They believe it is imperative for them to give others the opportunity to receive not only the education the University offers, but also the emotional support that made such a difference for each of them. Their generous support of the University includes contributions to scholarships as well as a legacy gift.
Bryant University is honored to recognize Caryl and Frank Bingham, distinguished alumni, inspiring educators, and faithful supporters as Champions for Philanthropy with the Outstanding 1863 Society Members award.
Richard Leto ’73 and Bonnie Leto
Outstanding Champions for Philanthropy
Bonnie and Richard Leto had big plans for their gift to Bryant, envisioning their philanthropic support as a way to touch students’ lives in important ways that benefit the entire student body. Thinking small was never Rick’s style.
Following his older brother, Marvin, to Bryant, Rick’s heart was set on becoming a professional baseball player. He didn’t like playing in cold weather though and hung up his glove after a year. Realizing he could compete as a student, he went on to make the most of the opportunities Bryant offered.
Recruited on campus by Macy’s, he landed his first job, progressing from trainee to executive vice president of merchandising during his 23-year tenure. That, he says, never would have happened if he had not come to Bryant.
Transitioning from a successful career that also included executive leadership positions with retail giants Kohl’s and Mervyn’s, Rick and Bonnie chose to focus on “repaying gifts” that had made a difference in their lives. Bryant became a philanthropic priority, not only because of the high-level education that had helped launch Rick’s career, but also because the Letos determined their support could do much good here.
To complement Bryant’s world-class facilities, academics, and scholarship opportunities, the Letos established the Richard and Bonnie Leto Health and Nutrition Education Fund. Mindful of the prevalence of eating disorders – and the lack of awareness and resources, they worked closely with University leaders to create a transformative initiative that promotes healthy lifestyles in which students maintain a wise and balanced relationship with food.
The education, outreach, and referral process they helped develop works in partnership with the University’s student health and counseling services. An additional gift from the Letos allowed a Health and Nutrition Educator to begin working with students in the fall of 2017. Hundreds of students have attended nutrition talks or received nutritional counseling for help with food allergies, adjusting to college dining culture, and improving athletic performance.
The Health and Nutrition Educator also works with students to secure counseling and other resources to avoid serious health problems. After sessions with the Health and Nutrition Educator at Orientation, students in the incoming class and their parents knew someone on campus, thanks to the Letos, who could help with any food struggles the students might have.
For making an enduring difference in the lives of hundreds of students, Bryant University is proud to honor Bonnie and Richard Leto ’73 as 2020 Champions for Philanthropy.