Phil Calandra: A role model for giving time, talent, and treasure

Alum shares why he gives, crediting first-hand financial struggles, ASU President Michael Crow's vision for the future of higher education, and students' emergency needs.

Phil Calandra (MBA ’75) has had a relationship with the W. P. Carey School of Business since his graduation in several ways: initially as a member of the former MBA Council, now as a San Francisco Bay Area-based W. P. Carey Alumni Council member. In the latter capacity, he hosted multiple events to welcome and connect the students and alumni of the ASU-Draper University Entrepreneurship Incubator Program in San Mateo, California. Most recently, in 2020, Calandra and his wife, Susan, made a multi-year commitment to the Student Emergency Fund.

We know first-hand what a financial struggle it can be for a young person to fund graduate studies. But we also know what a huge door opener and skills asset an MBA is throughout a career. By combining a family loan and a part-time tutoring job with the Sun Devil Football program, I covered my degree — but it wasn’t easy.

— Phil Calandra

“Nor was it financially easy for Susan, at the time my fiancé,” Calandra continues. “Having worked and saved for a year after earning her undergrad degree, she joined me in Tempe and took the additional 15 hours of accounting courses she needed to sit for the CPA exam. Those courses were the precursor to a wonderful career that started with Price Waterhouse and ended as deputy chief financial officer of Stanford University. We are pleased to now give back, helping solve financial distress situations for current and future W. P. Carey students.”

Calandra feels satisfied, too, to have had many meaningful jobs before retiring from full-time employment in 2017 after four decades in global payroll and human resources technology roles. That journey began in Tempe in 1978 when he was hired by ADP to be its very first payroll services salesperson in the state of Arizona.

“At the time, I didn’t fit ADP’s hiring footprint in terms of experience,” says Calandra, “but they were swayed by my ASU MBA and contacts and knowledge of the Arizona economy I gained while earning the degree. They took a chance on me and it worked out quite well for both parties. I stayed with the company for the better part of two decades and on multiple occasions was given assignments I wouldn’t have been able to pull off if I hadn’t had my ASU MBA-acquired knowledge and skills to fall back on.”

While he now does some consulting in his area of expertise, he shares his time and talent with the W. P. Carey Alumni Council, helping to advance goals through direct action, input, and collaboration.

The treasure the Calandras give to the Student Emergency Fund provides financial support to W. P. Carey School of Business students who are unable to meet expenses because of unexpected hardship.

Calandra answered some questions about his trifecta of giving from W. P. Carey News:

Question: You’ve been giving your time and talent to particular W. P. Carey programs for 15 years. This has been extremely generous. What is it that we’re specifically doing that motivates you, gets you excited to share the extra hours in your day and career experience?

Answer: Not long after Dr. Crow became university president in 2002, it became quite apparent ASU was about to take off on an altogether different vision and trajectory. New paradigms versus standard operating procedures, inclusivity versus exclusivity, innovation versus stagnation. Wow! Nobody knew with certainty all stages of the rocket would ignite as they have, but it was clear our alma mater was no longer going to be your grandfather’s old ASU.

I was proud and excited but convinced one of the drivers of success would be the creation of greater ASU momentum outside the Valley of the Sun. To me, it was kind of a no brainer that the first domestic bridge that needed to be built had to extend from Tempe to Silicon Valley. That’s why I raised my hand when the W. P. Carey MBA Council came calling. And it’s why I want to remain involved with W. P. Carey and ASU as long as I can be. I couldn’t be prouder of what ASU and W. P. Carey have accomplished in the past 20 years. I’ve always known that the MBA I received from ASU is world-class. But now, the whole world knows, too!

Q: What is the best experience you had giving a gift of time, talent, and treasure? What made it so good for you?

A: The events we had at Draper University were quite valuable and personally rewarding. They certainly allowed us to warmly welcome the ASU students to San Francisco/Silicon Valley. Perhaps more importantly, we were able to involve many Sun Devil alumni members of the vast local business community. That’s something that with the proper nurturing can result in increased career opportunities for ASU grads and major gifts. I’m hopeful that once the pandemic is behind us, we’ll figure out how to reboot that unique and game-changing program.

Q: How do you make decisions about your giving of time, talent, and treasure? What is your process in deciding to give?

A: It’s all about optimum impact. In other words, where can our time, talent, or treasure have the most positive impact? Often, but not always, the goal is to have that success as quickly as possible.

Q: At what point in your life did philanthropy become important to you? Has it changed over the years?

A: Through the years, Susan and I had been fairly generous to our two undergrad alma maters, both private Catholic institutions, as well as to ASU. However, when we started to think seriously about estate planning about a decade ago, higher education philanthropy took on more importance and substance. Higher ed has been the priority of our philanthropy, as we see quality, accessible, and financially stable colleges and universities as the key to solving many of the planet’s most critical challenges.

We’ve gone down a planned giving path in the case of our undergrad alma maters, where eventually a good chunk of our assets will invest in research seeking cures to rare and deadly childhood diseases. But in the case of ASU and W. P. Carey, we wanted to make a gift that would help people almost immediately. When Amy Hillman and the development team suggested the Student Emergency Fund and pointed out a gift would also help W. P. Carey reach its Campaign ASU 2020 goal, it was a no brainer. We’re so very pleased that the full amount of our gift will be collected within the next 36 months and that initial installments are already helping W. P. Carey students with emergency needs!

Q: What do you miss about W. P. Carey and ASU and want to do once the pandemic is over?

A: I love being on campus in Tempe twice a year (in normal non-pandemic times) for our in-person W. P. Carey Alumni Council meetings. Susan and I still have great friends — many of them also Sun Devils — from our early career years in the Valley. The always well-planned and executed council meetings give me a great opportunity to reconnect with those friends while in town. The fall meeting is my favorite because it’s always held in conjunction with Homecoming and, of course, a Sun Devil home football game. The W. P. Carey Alumni Hall of Fame induction event and pre-game tailgate party are always awesome events. So too is the opportunity to reconnect with former players I knew from some of Frank Kush’s memorable mid-70s teams. I’m already looking forward to Coach Herm Edward’s 2021 Sun Devils and Homecoming Weekend. Go, Devils!

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