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Flagler alumnus Christopher Catania helps by giving back as a way to make positive change

May 30, 2020

​For Christopher Catania, a 2001 alumnus of Flagler College and Wells Fargo at Work Regional Manager for Florida and the Southeast, giving back to his alma mater has always been an extension of his strong belief in the importance of higher education.

“I recall my father always telling me that college changes your way of thinking,” Catania said. “It helps you shape your worldview and understand others’ perspectives. At Wells Fargo, I’ve had many opportunities to give back to the community, and as a Flagler alum, this particular community partnership really warms my heart. It’s rewarding to be able to give back and make a difference in a way that is so personal.”

That commitment to higher education and community support is one shared by Wells Fargo, which has shown its generous support to Flagler through scholarships and other means.

“Wells Fargo has been a champion of students and education for many years,” Catania said. “Our company supports colleges and universities in a variety of ways, including supporting programs like Flagler’s first generation scholarship initiative, delivering financial education workshops, and participating in other efforts focused on increasing access to education and professional opportunities.”

In addition, this year the financial services company has made the decision to support Flagler College’s COVID-19 Student Relief Fund, something Catania believes will help keep students on track despite the disruption caused by the pandemic.

“We know our long-term success is directly linked to the success of our customers and the communities we serve,” he said about Wells Fargo. “When our communities thrive, we thrive. We have a commitment to our communities and each other, especially now as we face the COVID-19 health crisis and find ways to overcome the obstacles that come with it.”

This builds on other support from the company, including the scholarship focused on first-generation students, through which Catania said the company hopes to support the success of Flagler students who are the first in their families to attend college.

“Our greatest priority is helping people succeed financially and build better lives,” he said. “Higher education is one of the most powerful tools for achieving income mobility.”

For Catania, the importance of giving back to the community is something that he learned during his 20s when he first started working with Wells Fargo. It’s a concept that is deeply embedded in the company’s culture, and that has guided him to get more involved with Flagler, both as a donor, as well as with the College’s Alumni Board.

“That’s when I learned first-hand the great need thereis to help students,” he said about the Board. “I was fortunate enough to have financial support from my parents when I was in school, but we all know many hard-working families cannot afford to cover all the costs associated with a college education. I remember starting out my first year at Flagler as a freshman with lots of goals and dreams, many of which have been fulfilled thanks to my education. I hope to pay it forward through financial contributions to help make college as impactful of an experience for other students as it was for me.”

Part of the commitment he has made to the college has been in helping to build alumni participation and engagement, particularly because these are such critical measures for colleges.

“Engagement is often misinterpreted to just mean financial support, but that is only one form of it,” he said. “Participating in alumni weekends, keeping up by reading newsletters, referring potential students, engaging your employers and other organizations, and helping graduates find jobs are others ways alumni can support colleges and universities. All kinds of support can have a great impact on current and future students, the college and the entire community that surrounds it.”

He is quick to recognize the support and encouragement he received at Flagler from key faculty who went beyond lectures and really worked to develop him into someone who would be successful after graduation.

“I had great professors who took a real interest in my future," he said. "I remember taking a business ethics course with Dr. Delaughter, an economics course with Mr. Kelly and the rapport I built with Mr. Presyz, who helped me get an internship during my junior year that eventually led to my first job out of college. That internship jumpstarted my career in the finance industry, which now spans 20 years.”

Catania ties it all back to what his father always told him about higher education’s ability to change the way he thinks.

“I can’t stress enough how much college helped to shape my worldview and grow into the person I am today,” he said. “I see how higher education institutions, like Flagler, have a major impact on the long-term success of our business communities, and I realize the impact it had on me. I want to be part of that, and I am fortunate enough to have the ability to give back.”

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