When Fred Profeta immigrated to the U.S. in 1906 at the age of 3, it was during a time of open prejudice and bigotry toward Italian immigrants.
That didn’t stop him from using the one weapon that always wins a fight: education.
While holding two jobs, Fred Profeta earned a Ph.D. in law and became a university professor. His wife, Lynn Profeta, earned a master’s degree at Seton Hall University and became a middle school teacher and guidance counselor.
And, since education always begins at home, the parents instilled the importance of knowledge on their son, Paul Profeta.
Years later, after graduating from Harvard University and getting an MBA from there, Paul Profeta became a successful real estate investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Last Thursday, Profeta celebrated his parents at the dedication of a new real estate research center that he has endowed at New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Through his endowment of both a real estate center and center on entrepreneurship, Profeta hopes to provide the same opportunities to a new generation of students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college.
“My parents knew education was the escalator for the family in this country,” he said. “They launched us on good escalators, and I want the family legacy to be an escalator here at NJIT.
“If you came to this campus in the ’60s and ’70s, you saw a lot of Jews, Irish and Italians taking the escalator. Today, you see African Americans, you see Asians, you see Latinos. They’re the children of immigrants taking the escalator, getting the degree, getting respect.”
The Paul V. Profeta Foundation Real Estate Technology, Design and Innovation Center examines the use of tech and new design, construction and business models in real estate, with a focus on information technology and platform economics. It’s based at NJIT’s Martin Tuchman School of Management, and led by Oya Tukel, the dean at MTSM, who serves as acting director.
The Paul V. Profeta Foundation Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center fuels NJIT’s efforts to support business and economic growth in its home city of Newark and works closely with VentureLink, the business incubation arm of the university’s New Jersey Innovation Institute.
Both centers were launched last year through a transformational donation from Profeta — the largest individual gift in NJIT’s history. Speaker after speaker at the dedication reflected on the impact of that generosity, for students, faculty and the surrounding community.
“Both programs challenge us to rethink our vision, expand our engagement with the community and provide enhanced opportunities for our talented and hardworking students,” NJIT President Joel Bloom said. “For this reason, Paul, we thank you for this tremendous investment in the next generation of leaders, visionaries, researchers and innovators.”