School of Business Alumnus Chairs UConn Foundation Board; ‘Let’s Be the Best… That’s What it Means to Come to UConn’
When alumnus Dan Toscano ’87 talks about the need for more scholarships to help UConn students, he speaks from the heart.
“I had some very discouraging moments when I was a student here and the tuition was due and I didn’t quite have it pulled together yet,” he recalled during a recent interview. “My wife, Tresa, and I had to fight to get through college financially. I remember those days vividly. I don’t want to see anyone else go through that.”
Toscano’s generosity and commitment to the university has been strong and enduring. In October, he became the chairman of the Board of Directors of the UConn Foundation, the university’s fund-development entity. The Foundation has embarked on a $150 million scholarship initiative.
“I feel what drives the decisions of many students today is not a focus on their aspirational school but on what they can afford,” Toscano said. “It’s tough for a young person, leaving home for the first time and taking on a challenging curriculum, to then have to worry about paying for college as well.”
In a presentation to the legislature in February, Toscano said the opportunity for a student, from a non-wealthy family, to attend college can have an impact on that family for generations.
He and his wife have created two need-based, full-scholarships, which include room-and-board, to help make college accessible to students who might otherwise graduate with a mountain of debt. Toscano takes a personal interest in the scholarship recipients by mentoring them and offering them career support.
Toscano said the growth of the university since he attended has been phenomenal. It is no accident, he said, that UConn has risen to be one of the nation’s finest public universities, an engine of economic growth for Connecticut, and a tremendous source of state pride.
“Our president, Susan Herbst, has rewritten the rules of who we are at UConn and what we want to be,” he said. “It’s amazing the transformation that’s happened in the last five years. From the provost to the vice provost to the deans and department heads, there’s a consistent theme of excellence. That may sound trite and sort of obvious, but that means something here.
“The belief is that if we’re going to do something, let’s be the best at it or not do it. It takes time, resources and commitment. We’re not satisfied yet, but it’s amazing to see the transformation and how quickly it took hold. Our new culture can be cemented. That’s what it means to come to UConn.”
A native of Bristol, Toscano earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from UConn in 1987 and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1999. He is a managing director of Morgan Stanley and oversees Global Leveraged and Acquisition Finance. Prior to joining Morgan Stanley, he was a managing director and group head at Deutsche Bank Securities and its predecessor, Bankers Trust.
Despite his success, Toscano remains a friendly and self-effacing man, who has a dry sense of humor and doesn’t mind poking fun at himself. He often stops by the School of Business to visit favorite professors or juggles his schedule to attend a UConn athletic event.
“I enjoy being on campus every bit as much now as I did when I was a student here,” he said.
Toscano said he believes very deeply in giving back to the university that gave him his start. That mantra has led him to serve on the Foundation board since 2008. He and his family have endowed a chair in finance at the School of Business, where he also serves on the Dean’s Leadership Cabinet.
Toscano said he realizes that the Foundation is the gateway to the alumni base and to the people who are most supportive of UConn. Whether they are willing to invest time, talent, or financial gifts, there is an avenue for them, he said.
During the spring of 2013, Toscano delivered the School of Business commencement speech. He shared much advice with students, including the recommendation that they enjoy what they do, avoid wasting time, and to try not to “over plan” their lives.
One of the biggest surprises he discovered in the workplace was the number of people who show up, but don’t really care about what they do, he said.
“I tell students, ‘Find your passion and don’t stop until you do,'” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard to do, and it may take a while. We don’t all discover it at the same time. If you haven’t found it before you get here, this is the venue to check it out. Explore everything. You may find passion that’s completely different from what you expected when you came in.”