From Brockport to Financial Futures

Stephen Bergonzi

Stephen Bergonzi, who graduated magna cum laude from the Honors College with a bachelor’s degree in history, went on to earn his juris doctor of law degree from Washington University in St. Louis. He now helps clients decide how best to plan their financial futures.

Moving from Brockport to the Midwest, to the East Coast, and back to Upstate taught Stephen Bergonzi ’11 that not only can he can go home again, but he can have an impact on an area that is better than he remembered.

What did you like about Brockport?

I liked being involved with leadership activities. I was a member of the Honors College and secretary for its executive committee. I worked closely with Emeritus Professor Kenneth O’Brien, former Honors College director. I also served on a student group working on retention. Coincidentally, my girlfriend—now my wife, Karla—lived in Spencerport, making it convenient to stop on my way to or from classes.

Who were your favorite faculty?

The history department at Brockport is exceptional, especially the quality of the faculty. Two of my favorite history faculty are Dr. Anne MacPherson, professor and chair, and Dr. Jamie Spiller, professor, who was my thesis advisor. They were incredibly supportive to me, and helped me to see that the liberal arts help people learn and think.

How did Brockport prepare you for law school?

I attended law school at Washington University in St. Louis. I was in classes with students from Northwestern and other top-notch universities, and it was easy to keep up. At Brockport, I learned to write concisely, to take big concepts and break them down. My law professors were impressed with my writing.

What did you do after law school?

During law school, I worked as a student Phonathon caller on behalf of Washington University for Ruffalo Noel Levitz. I was their most successful student caller. After I graduated from law school, I took a position with them as nationwide call manager while my wife was completing her doctoral degree in biomedical engineering. My position was 100 percent travel, a good fit at the time, but not long term.

After my wife completed her PhD, she accepted a post-doctorate position at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and I became a major gifts officer for Temple University there. We did not make it back to Rochester then, but we did make it close to a Wegmans.

Why did you want to return to the Rochester area?

We wanted to return to Rochester because it is where we are from, plus it offers a good standard of living at a reasonable cost.

What’s important to you about your work?

On our way back to Rochester, we spent some time in Syracuse, where I served as director of development for the Rosamond Gifford Zoo. Then Karla accepted her current position in early 2020, and I began a position as a wealth manager for a local firm.

My work as a wealth manager is similar to what I did in my development role, helping people make decisions on how to allocate their financial resources in a way that resonates for them. I enjoy the face-to-face meetings I have with clients, just as I enjoyed my meetings with donors.

Now, I feel as though I have more options to offer, and I can work with a wider variety of people, not just alumni. My firm represents a number of insurance companies and investment vehicles. There is constant learning involved to keep current with rules and regulations. It is mentally stimulating and allows me to help my clients make an impact on their lives, their families, and the community.

How are you making an impact at Brockport?

Karla and I established the Stephen & Karla Bergonzi Faculty Support Fund, to provide for scholarly and research needs not met through other sources. For example, underwriting travel to conferences or travel for research are ways this fund can support faculty. Our faculty drive Brockport forward, and we need to encourage their influence through professional affiliations and scholarly work. Our goal is to have a fund for history department faculty that is flexible and ensures that faculty have the resources to do their best work.

How has Brockport changed while you were away?

Brockport used to be a quiet place. But now it has become Bougeeport. It’s gorgeous with the Victorian houses. It’s like an historical attraction. It’s become a destination.

Back to Brockport Today


Posted: July 25, 2022