Times were tough and resources were scarce when Daniel D’Aniello ’68 was a student at Syracuse University. So much so, he recalls, that his grandmother had to go into her china closet and empty the emergency sugar bowl of the precious few dollars set aside there to help him out in his second semester. “We just didn’t have enough money to even have a bank account,” he says.
Things are very different now for D’Aniello, a noted philanthropist and founding partner and Chairman Emeritus of The Carlyle Group, a global alternative asset management company based in Washington, D.C. Yet he remembers those leaner days with fondness and gratitude. A native of Butler, Pennsylvania, D’Aniello was an only child raised by a single parent—his mother. He says he knew back then there were no funds for him to go to college. Originally, an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy seemed to provide the perfect solution, until a physical exam in the spring of his senior year of high school revealed a slight heart murmur. It later proved harmless, but necessitated a new plan for achieving his education goals. “They told me to take a year at a prep school while they decided if I could be admitted, but I didn’t want that,” D’Aniello says. Instead, he sought the advice of his gymnastics coach, who helped him obtain invitations from three universities. Two were offers for full athletic scholarships. But the one he found most appealing, though challenging, was an offer for a half-tuition academic scholarship at Syracuse University that required him to maintain Dean’s List status.
D’Aniello’s decision to scrape together every penny he could to invest in that opportunity laid the foundation for a profoundly successful career. It also launched his lifelong relationship with Syracuse—the place he now thinks of as his “true north”—the alma mater he holds dear. And it instilled in him an appreciation for all those who offered him a helping hand along the way, and a commitment to giving to others in return. Those three factors recently came together in the form of a transformational $20 million gift to the University from D’Aniello and his wife, Gayle. One of the largest single gifts in the institution’s history, it stands as a powerful testimony to the value of a Syracuse University education, from one who knows. “I think of Syracuse as my foundation, my launching pad, my family,” says D’Aniello, who has two daughters, Dana G’04, a Newhouse graduate, and Bethany. “And I hope others who go there can be helped by my involvement.”
While at Syracuse, D’Aniello was a member of the gymnastics team and a Dean’s List student throughout his four years and received a full academic scholarship by his junior year. A member of the Beta Gamma Sigma honor society for business scholars, he earned a bachelor’s degree in transportation economics at what is now the Whitman School of Management, graduating magna cum laude as Class Marshal. “When I arrived at Syracuse, I didn’t know a soul. I didn’t know if I could make it financially. I didn’t even know if I could make it academically,” says D’Aniello, who received a 2017 Arents Award for Excellence in Business and Philanthropic Leadership, the University’s highest alumni honor. “But the people who reached out to me once I was there pulled me up and set me on a path of believing in myself. And that changed my life.”
The confidence D’Aniello gained as a student helped him prosper in leadership roles throughout his life, from his service as an officer in the U.S. Navy aboard the U.S.S. Wasp from 1968 to 1971 to earning an MBA from Harvard Business School as a Teagle Foundation Fellow. He then advanced in a number of corporate financial positions, including serving as financial officer at PepsiCo Inc. and Trans World Airlines and vice president for finance and development at the Marriott Corporation, before leaving in 1987 to form The Carlyle Group. Today, Carlyle boasts 31 offices across six continents, with $195 billion in assets under management. “You learn very quickly how important communications and interpersonal relationships are in the context of building leadership skills and being able to motivate people around goals and objectives,” says D’Aniello, who in 2016 was recognized with the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation’s Lone Sailor Award for drawing upon his service experience to achieve success, while exemplifying the core values of honor, courage, and commitment. “That was enabled by the confidence I had received in building my foundation from a thatched hut to a brick building by the time I graduated from Syracuse.”
I think of Syracuse as my foundation, my launching pad, my family. And I hope others who go there can be helped by my involvement.
Widely respected for his generosity, D’Aniello considers it a privilege to share his wealth and success with others. His philanthropic work is far-reaching, with a focus on faith-based charity, education and the military, mental health, the performing arts, and free enterprise. He is co-chairman of the American Enterprise Institute, a member of the U.S.–China CEO and Former Senior Government Officials’ Dialogue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Council for United States and Italy, an advisor to the John Templeton Foundation, chairman of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, and a founding trustee of the Lumen Institute. “I came to realize early on in my life that there were people living their lives for me and that you have to pay back the people who are being good to you,” he says. “So it’s a terrific feeling to be able to help people and to invest in them. It’s very fulfilling.”
At Syracuse, D’Aniello has extended his generosity in countless ways through the years, consistently and broadly supporting the University, including serving on the Board of Trustees, the Chancellor’s Council, and the Whitman School’s Corporate Advisory Council. He has contributed to scholarship funds, student experiential learning, the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, and the University-wide D’Aniello Family Speaker Series. He is advisory board co-chair and a strong supporter of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), which is particularly meaningful to him as a veteran. “Dan D’Aniello touches so much of what we do at Syracuse University,” says Michael Haynie, the University’s vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and innovation and IVMF’s executive director. “He is one of our most committed alums. We could not do what we do here without him.”
D’Aniello’s most recent contribution to the University, announced in February, is especially grand. The $20 million gift supports construction of the National Veterans Resource Center (NVRC), a first-of-its-kind facility that will house the IVMF, the nation’s leading academic institute focused on the concerns of more than 20 million veterans and their families, as well as ROTC offices and other veteran-focused educational, vocational, and community engagement programs.
Slated to open in spring 2020, the NVRC will serve as an exemplar of academic, government, and community collaboration and will build upon and advance the University’s already strong national leadership in the veterans’ community. The NVRC will house programs designed to advance the economic success of the region’s and the nation’s veterans and military families, and also serve as a platform through which to seed, nurture, and coordinate veteran-connected academic research and technology commercialization.
Chancellor Kent Syverud calls the D’Aniello family’s gift a profoundly transformative one that will allow the University to fulfill its promise of being the best place for veterans. “The commitment that Dan and Gayle D’Aniello have made to Syracuse University, to our students, to our faculty, and to our veterans will have a tremendous impact on our University for generations to come,” he says. “Dan has dedicated his life to service—first in uniform and later as an entrepreneur, business leader, and philanthropist. Syracuse University is deeply grateful for the D’Aniello family’s support, which has the potential to change the lives of millions of veterans and military families.”
For D’Aniello, the gift represents an opportunity to further advance his alma mater’s vision and goals. “Gayle and I are proud and honored to be able to support current and future students, especially those who have served and will serve in our nation’s armed forces,” he says. “The University understands and appreciates the significant contributions made by veterans and military families, and the great role they play in our society. This new center will be a game changer in the ongoing efforts to better the post-service lives of our veterans and their families. I feel totally privileged to be in a position to help.”
This story was first published on June 1, 2018 and last updated on . It also appeared as “Ultimate Investments” in the issue of Syracuse University Magazine.
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