Community Foundation donor Dick Gadomski was recognized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Memphis Chapter as Outstanding Philanthropist at its 2021 Crystal Awards. Learn more about this passionate and generous philanthropist in a 2016 Community Foundation profile, below, published when Christian Brothers University renamed its School of Engineering in his honor.
(Nov. 14, 2016) For 40 years, Dick Gadomski has been finding ways to say thank you to Christian Brothers University for giving him the education that changed the trajectory of his life. He has given the university his time, energy, and significant financial support.
Last week, CBU found a noteworthy way to say thank you to Gadomski in return. During ceremonies at the annual Bell Tower Gala on Saturday night, CBU president Dr. John Smarrelli announced that the university’s nationally-heralded engineering school will become the Gadomski School of Engineering. Gadomski’s wife Flo, whom he acknowledged as “my partner who gives me support in all that I do,” joined him on stage to accept the honor, as did his daughter, Regina, and her husband, Jay Healy.
“I’m humbled,” Gadomski says. “After graduating from CBU, no matter where I went, I found I had an undergraduate education that allowed me to compete with graduates of the best engineering schools in the nation. I had tremendous self-confidence in my capabilities, and it all started at CBU.”
Gadomski wasn’t the school’s most promising freshman when he arrived on campus in 1958. While he was attending a Christian Brothers high school in inner-city Chicago, Gadomski admits he was a “wise guy” whose favorite subjects were cars, girls and TV. “I loved chemistry, but I was a D student overall,” he says.
Three Brothers who recognized Gadomski’s potential told him about Christian Brothers College in Memphis, believing that the school’s small class sizes, dedicated teachers, and strong engineering program would provide the stimulus Gadomski needed to succeed. And succeed he did.
After earning a master’s degree in engineering at Southern Cal, Gadomski rose and rose again through a series of jobs that included aerospace engineering, a stint as a process engineer at Humko in Memphis, and work with BASF in Germany. In the 1970s, he returned to Memphis to start Process Systems Incorporated (PSI), a design and building company that developed an impressive list of engineering, fabrication, and construction projects. When Gadomski sold PSI in 1998, the company had more than 500 employees and about $100 million in annual sales.
Carved into the doors and walls of buildings on the CBU campus is the motto of the Lasallian Christian Brothers: “Enter to learn. Leave to serve.” Gadomski has lived out that motto by giving back to his adopted hometown in numerous ways.
At PSI, his company was a top supporter of United Way. “I had a charitable trust set up with Fidelity when I was sole stockholder of the PSI Group of Companies more than 25 years ago. We used the trust to make charitable donations to the Memphis community,” he says. “I sold my businesses in 1997 and transferred the assets of that trust to the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, establishing the Gadomski Family Foundation Fund. I chose the Community Foundation because it just made good sense to me in giving back to the community for the business success I had in Memphis.
Through the Gadomski Family Foundation Fund, he and his family have made charitable donations to the Catholic Diocese of Memphis and its Jubilee Schools, to their church, their grandchildren’s schools and other projects. But CBU has always held a special place in Dick Gadomski’s heart.
He has served three terms—a total of 28 years—on CBU’s Board of Trustees. Both his son, Greg, and daughter, Regina, earned degrees at CBU. The Gadomski Family Foundation Fund has supported a number of projects at the university, including the Dolores Gadomski Scholarship in honor of Dick’s late wife, a parochial school teacher for 20-plus years. “She was a scholarship student at Sienna College, and I was on academic probation at CBU when we met,” he said. “Dolores put me on the right track and made me get serious about my education.”
Gadomski currently serves as chairman of Faith in Progress, CBU’s capital campaign that seeks to raise $70 million over five years for new buildings, endowed programs for students and faculty, and outreach programs. Gadomski has made a major gift to the campaign. “It’s the most ambitious fundraising program in CBU’s history, and we are already more than halfway to our goal,” he’s happy to report.
Don’t get Gadomski started talking about CBU and its future unless you have more than a few minutes to spare. He’s proud that the engineering school that will bear his name, as well as CBU’s new physician assistants and nursing programs, have led the school to a surge in enrollment. And Gadomski especially likes to talk about how the capital campaign is aimed at furthering CBU’s reach in the Memphis community.
“CBU is already focused on meeting the needs of Memphis, with reaching inner-city students and training them for the kinds of jobs available in the Memphis market,” he says. “As a result, 80 percent of our graduates stay in this region. Our capital campaign includes a plan to develop community partnerships that will increase the number of college-ready high school students in the community.”
Gadomski adds, “CBU has grown and changed over the years, but the focus is still on excellent teaching and a faculty that knows and cares about its students. The student/faculty ratio at CBU is 13:1. Our teachers have the time to help a student live up to his or her potential, just as Christian Brothers teachers did years ago for me.”