Alumni: 84,000   Students: 17,000

Frank D’Onofrio ’13

Frank D’Onofrio ’13
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Senior Program Manager

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Dedicated. Driven. Integrity.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
After 25 Years without a degree… I was inspired to provide a way to inspire my children that persistence will lead you to your goals.
People get stopped in life, they find hobbies, raise families- life just happens. All of a sudden it hits you, you are no longer a young man, you are an adult. Your future is NOW, not next year or in 10 years… It’s right now. You can procrastinate, or you can pull it together, and set a future for yourself, With me it was why not now? So I pulled everything together. The time was right now.

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
ESC had the reputation of being the leader in distance learning. It also was part of the SUNY network, which gave it credence above most others. It also had some great teachers, who cared. I asked questions, and they were quick to make sure I was taken care of. I chose ESC because the people who created it made it so we could succeed and achieve our dreams.

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
My wife most of all. She was amazed at my persistence. She said 35 years to reach a life long goal was the strongest persistent desire she had ever seen, and she was proud of my achievement. At my graduation she made homemade chocolate cap/diploma’s on a stick to hand out. She was so proud of me. My Mentor Dianne – was the best. She was always there when I needed to counsel and advice. She was always a positive influence on me. My children – who saw what it took for me to get my degree. I wanted to beat my daughter to it, but she beat me by two years.

What, if any, obstacles did you overcome?
9-11 2001 was the first obstacle… I was supposed to be in a meeting in 1 Financial Center that Day ( The building was destroyed). On my way to the meeting, I was called that the meeting was cancelled. I lost my Job and my career for a time, as a result. But I was still around to talk about it. Unlike many I knew who aren’t here. I stopped for a time, trying to figure out how to feed my family, but the College helped me.. and understood. We relocated from NY to Maryland, but I was never out of touch. My Mentor made sure of that. When I wanted to give up, she talked me through it. When I got on my feet again, financially, I was able to get it done. Raising a family is always an obstacle – especially at one point 5 teenagers at one time. I could always find something else to do.. But going for it was the goal.
Internally, I sometime doubted why? but realized I stood in my own way. I could achieve the goal or not… Ultimately it became my own heart that made me finish – Get to the final moment. Lastly; because you are in a distance learning class, you have to summon up the persistence it takes to succeed. If not, you won’t do an assignment, because something else came up. I made the commitment to myself, for myself, and I had no one else to blame but myself for not succeeding, and no one else to congratulate except myself for my success.

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
You will always find a reason not to… And you can be reasonable about it. Its sad that there is always something that will come in your way to distract you. Something you might miss. But when it comes down to it, you can’t find a better time then the present to reach your goal. It cannot be about failure, because you are better than that! You do not start this so that you can say you didn’t do it. If you fail yourself, you will find that there is no one else but the person in the mirror to blame. Don’t look at yourself and say you can’t. Because you can! Maybe you took some courses and life happened to you so you didn’t finish, or you didn’t think you could get the money.. or even you didn’t think you could do it. Maybe it wasn’t the right time long ago, and it got away from you. Just Maybe you put others before yourself, and time flew by… Throw all of that aside and tell yourself – there is only one obstacle in your way.. and that is you. ESC sets it up so that if you desire it – you will do it. Once you get your degree, it will be an accomplishment that will be all yours. You can’t buy the happiness that achieving this goal will bring.
Let me tell you a final story.. My mom promised the first person in the family to graduate from College a car. Unfortunately it took 35 years, and mom was in no place to buy me a car.. So I had my wife buy my mom a matchbox car.. And the day of my Graduation, my mom gave me a car. So that she could keep her promise. I still have that matchbox car on my desk!

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
Because people believed in me at one point, and it is because of them, I had strength I didn’t think I had. They volunteered, taught me, or just listened when I needed it. If you want to be a list of excuses, waiting for the reason why you cannot… reach out to someone at ESC, and let them remind you why you are doing this. There may not be one physical place, but there are people all over who are graduates… people who you never dreamed did it this way.

How has your experience at ESC changed your life since graduation?
I came away with the belief that I could achieve anything if I set my mind to it. I learned that excuses abound, but they are not reasons to start. Just recently I finished writing my first book, got an Agent and am close to being published. I realized that it was because of ESC, that I did not stop, I realized I could put it down for a few days, and still get it done. I have no issues any longer, trying to explain why I am a senior level IT person, without a degree. Because I have one. I don’t doubt myself, or my desire any longer. I also make a plan, and execute it. Making sure I enjoy it along the way.

Anything else you would like to share?
Taking courses at ESC you might have the notion that you will just do the minimum, just get the degree. Don’t let that mindset permeate into you. Each course is a jewel to be enjoyed. Each class, has a teacher, who cares about your success. I realized that I was paying the bill for this, and that I wanted to get the best value from it I could. So I made sure I dove deep. I made sure, if I took a course I was going to do the work to get an A. This is the time to enjoy your education. Figure out that learning is fun, and it no longer becomes difficult, it becomes a joy. Distance learning can be difficult, because you don’t have distractions and classmates that could get you side tracked. That is the same reason you can be successful, because you do not have classmates or distractions to sidetrack you.