Syracuse University Magazine

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Members of the Rigolosi family gathered last fall for the Holy Name Medical Center Founders Ball at Chelsea Piers in New York City. Pictured (from left) are Robert R. Rigolosi ’91, Vince Rigolosi ’54, Elaine Rigolosi, Robert S. Rigolosi ’57, Charlie Rigoglioso ’51, Rebecca Rigolosi ’92, and Ronnie Rigolosi ’65. All are SU graduates with the exception of Robert’s wife, Elaine, who is a professor at Columbia University. The medical center, located in Teaneck, New Jersey, honored Dr. Robert S. Rigolosi at the event as the recipient of The Spirit of Healing Award, recognizing him for his many years of distinguished service to the medical profession.



Eight and Counting for the Rigolosi Family

A well-worn path has developed from New Jersey and the home of the Rigolosi family to the Syracuse University Hill. That’s because a long line of Rigolosi family members picked SU—and more could be coming. To date, eight are Syracuse graduates. First, there are the four brothers: Charles ’51, Vincent ’54, Robert ’57, and Ronald ’65; then Charlie’s sons, Domenic ’78 and Daniel ’91, as well as Bob’s daughter Rebecca ’92 and son Robert ’91. 

It all started with Charlie, the oldest of seven children born to Italian immigrant parents—a father who worked in a factory and a mother who was a seamstress. Charlie was a boxer, and earned a scholarship under boxing coach Roy Simmons Sr. ’25. Charlie told “Simmy,” as the Rigolosi brothers refer to him, there were others “just like him, even better” at home. Soon, Vince and Bob followed. Ronnie arrived after SU discontinued the sport, but would have been the fourth brother to enter the ring for the Orange. Charlie, Vince, and Bob are all Lettermen of Distinction Award honorees. Charlie and Vince both battled their way to Eastern Intercollegiate boxing titles, and Bob was a two-time New York State Golden Gloves winner, a U.S. Olympic finalist in 1956, and an NCAA finalist in 1957. 

But Bob’s boxing stories don’t end there. In 1960, as a medical student at the University of Rome, he was asked to work as an interpreter with the U.S. Olympic boxing team. Bob knew the boxing coach, and the team trainer was from SU. While there, Bob met the young Cassius Clay before he became Muhammad Ali. “He was 18 years old and the friendliest guy in the Olympic Village,” Bob recalls. After Clay won the light-heavyweight gold medal, he autographed the sneakers he wore during his championship bout and gave them to Bob as a thank you for his help with the team. Bob chuckles when he tells the story of how, years later, his mother accidentally threw the sneakers away. “I couldn’t be angry,” he says. “She was throwing all of our old sneakers away before she and my father moved.”

As for his time at SU, “great memories,” Bob recalls. He remembers living with other student-athletes in temporary housing on South Campus, and sweeping up at Crouse Hall to the sounds of “beautiful organ music, or wonderful voices singing from the classrooms,” he says. Bob, a 1992 Arents Award recipient, went on to become a doctor, specializing in nephrology and establishing dialysis programs in New Jersey during a time when few existed. He is also the founder and medical director of the department of hemodialysis at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey. “I’ll always be grateful to Syracuse,” Bob says, “for giving us the educational and inspirational support to reach high goals.”

Ronnie also became a doctor, while Vince was the lawyer and politician in the family, having served elected office in his home state. Vince credits his parents, who never attended high school, for the family’s academic achievements. “They always valued education,” Vince says. “They went to work early in life shortly after immigrating to the United States where they met, married, and raised four boys and three girls.” All of the Rigolosi children earned advanced college degrees, with the three girls becoming teachers.

Vince most values the friendships he forged at SU that still exist to this day. “I became exposed to people who had interests of every sort,” he says. “That goes a long way in developing you as a person. It wasn’t just the experience I got in the classroom, but the experience I got on campus, too.”

So is eight enough when it comes to the Rigolosi family connection to SU? Don’t count on it. “There are 24 nieces and nephews out there, along with 26 grandnieces and grandnephews,” Vince says. “It’s a running joke in our family that each of them has to at least consider Syracuse, and be prepared for the needling if they go somewhere else.” —Keith Kobland

Editor's Note: Since this story was published, it has come to our attention that there is a ninth Rigolosi family member who is also a proud Orange alum. Elizabeth Rigolosi '09, a cousin to the family profiled here, earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in public relations with minors in anthropology and marketing.With this in mind, can a 10th Rigolosi family member at SU be far behind?