By Lori Hixon
Almost 25 years ago, Sebastian “Benny” Crapanzano ’97 was an outstanding high school senior in search of a college. As the first member of his family to consider going away to college, he found the process challenging and the tuition daunting. His parents, who were just making ends meet, hadn’t saved for his education, so he knew that every dollar in college tuition would translate to a dollar in student loans.
As he considered his many options, it was an offer of financial aid that tipped the scale in favor of Lafayette.
“I would not have been at Lafayette if it weren’t for financial aid,” he explains. “When I got the financial aid package from Lafayette, it included an invitation to the Marquis Scholars Program. The combination of the financial aid package and the opportunities associated with the Marquis Scholars Program compelled me to choose Lafayette over schools like Holy Cross, Boston College, and Georgetown.”
While at Lafayette, Crapanzano enjoyed transformative learning experiences. As an EXCEL Scholar, he analyzed the text of Federalist papers for Professor John Kincaid. As part of the Marquis Scholars Program, he also enjoyed an interim study-abroad trip to Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna—an experience that was far beyond anything he had ever imagined being able to enjoy in college.
“I had never been on an airplane before. In fact, no one in my family had ever been on an airplane before,” he explains. “To have the opportunity to travel to Europe was beyond appealing.”
During his senior year, he was challenged and enlightened during a research project on Major League Baseball salaries, which he conducted as part of his senior honors thesis in math and economics.
“I played baseball in high school and was an avid baseball and sports fan. I was lucky enough to find a professor at Lafayette, Tom Bruggink, whose field of interest was sports economics. So, I reached out to him during my sophomore year and asked to do some EXCEL research with him on a paper that he was doing on attendance models in Major League Baseball,” he recalls. “I traveled to Florida during spring training to interview general managers and members of the front office with the goal of tying player salaries more closely to performance. As sports salaries exploded in the late 1990s, the econometric model I developed for baseball salaries offered insights based on player stats and intangibles, such as leadership and loyalty. I presented this research at an undergraduate research forum in Texas that year.”
As he reflects on the transformative impact of the gift of financial aid on his own life, Crapanzano poses the question, “Why is it important to give?” In response to his own question, he replies, “These opportunities wouldn’t have been possible without funding from alumni or other donors.”
For Crapanzano, who is managing director of equity risk management at Morgan Stanley, Lafayette helped build his confidence and paved the way to his remarkable career. Today, he says that he is “living a life that is light years away from the one I had growing up.”
“That’s what Lafayette is all about. You can gain access to the professors at Lafayette because of the size of the school and the student-faculty ratio,” he says. “My story can be the story of any student. There isn’t a student who shows up on Lafayette’s campus who does not have these opportunities. And, these types of opportunities are only possible because of the size of the school, the quality of the faculty, and the funding of the programs.”
Now, in gratitude, Crapanzano is paying forward the gifts he received by putting the transformative experience he enjoyed within reach of new students and allowing Lafayette to bring the best to College Hill to study. He also has created opportunities for students to gain powerful insights about their future careers.
Crapanzano has hosted externships for Lafayette students and has presented information sessions about his company on campus.
“Working in sales and trading is a somewhat unique environment, and it is important for students considering this as a career path to experience it early on,” he says. “Even in a specialized profession, there are many, many diverse opportunities for students without traditional quantitative or economic degrees.”
In 2014, he and his wife, Elisa Crapanzano ’97, created a scholarship fund to enable deserving students with demonstrated financial need realize their dream of studying at Lafayette. As the College advances the President’s Challenge for Financial Aid, the Sebastian J and Elisa B. Crapanzano ’97 Scholarship Fund is one of many in the College’s endowment that are providing a foundation on which to build this critically important initiative to advance Lafayette’s affordability and distinction and bring the very best students to College Hill.