By KELLY J. ANDREWS
Shortly before graduation, Damian Dalla-Longa, walked unannounced into the Wharton External Affairs suite for the first time. Undergraduates spend little time in Vance Hall since Jon M. Huntsman Hall opened, and the few who venture into External Affairs are usually lost. But Dalla-Longa had a purpose — he was there to donate his signing bonus to the School that made it possible.
Dalla-Longa realized early how much Wharton meant to him. In December 2005, he finished degree requirements for a finance concentration, and his responsibilities as president of business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi were wrapping up. He had accepted a fantastic job offer with Bain Capital in Boston, but he wasn’t due to begin until July 2006. A Canadian citizen who had spent a semester in Australia, Dalla-Longa wanted to see more of the world, and took the opportunity to spend three months traveling across Asia and Europe.
“It definitely gave me new perspective,” he says. Not only did he learn to appreciate the cultures he was exposed to, but also what he left behind. “Away from Wharton, I realized the value of social relationships — the strong bonds with classmates, the other people in my fraternity. That’s what I missed.”
When he returned to the United States to participate in graduation festivities, he already had the bittersweet perspective of a young alumnus. Then a colleague who had graduated a few years ago from another school told him that he had donated his signing bonus to his alma mater.
Dalla-Longa’s first thought was that it was a lot of money. His second thought was that it was worth it. “I hadn’t heard of anyone doing this at Wharton, but I wanted to start something,” he says. “I feel very fortunate to have had such a great undergraduate experience at Wharton, and I feel an obligation to reciprocate and give something back to the School.”
That’s what landed him in Vance Hall that day in May. He has since set up a long-term partnership with Wharton, and plans to donate in many ways for years to come. To maximize the impact of his generosity, he pledged his bonus as an unrestricted gift to The Wharton Fund.
“More undergraduates should consider doing this,” he says. “They say they’ll donate when they’ve been working a few years and they’re financially stable. I thought, why wait?” After living the unencumbered life of a student and traveler, Dalla-Longa had little to give up. His apartment is barely furnished and the ink on his degree is barely dry, but he’s already a Founder in the Benjamin Franklin Society, and a member of the Young Franklins. In fact, he’s the youngest member, a peer of alumni with ten years of career success behind them.
“I’m ready,” says Dalla-Longa. “I’ve closed that college chapter, and I’m going to miss it, but I’m ready for the next step. My gift is just a symbol of that.”