Mario J. Gabelli, chairman and CEO of GAMCO Investors Inc., Rye, N.Y., will become a recipient of the 2020 Horatio Alger Award this spring.
The honor makes Mr. Gabelli one of 14 business, civic and cultural leaders in North America who will receive the honor this year and became a member of the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Inc., said a news release from the non-profit organization.
For more than 70 years, the Horatio Alger Award has been given to individuals, honoring them for overcoming adversity and remaining committed to higher education and charitable efforts in their communities, the news release said.
Mr. Gabelli, who was raised in the Bronx and is the son of Italian immigrants, received a scholarship to attend Fordham University, from which he graduated summa cum laude in 1965. He went on to obtain his MBA from Columbia Business School and later founded GAMCO Investors in 1977.
Over the years, his gifts to his alma maters and other institutions of higher education, including Boston College, have neared $100 million, according to the news release. Among these donations was a $30 million grant to Fordham University, which helped increase scholarships at the school and create the Gabelli Center for Global Security Analysis at Fordham University.
Mr. Gabelli said in an interview that, having attended a private Jesuit high school in the Bronx, which was mostly funded on scholarship, he wanted to "give something back" to students, which has been a mission of the Horatio Alger Association. He is also passionate about increasing financial literacy among young people, he added.
"Individuals should look at how to use part of their money to buy shares of something their interested in. Starting in high school, individuals should be taught how to do (things), such as open a brokerage account," he said.
Mr. Gabelli will be formally inducted into the Horatio Alger Association in April during the organization's 73rd Horatio Alger Award induction ceremonies in Washington.
Since 1984, the association has provided more than $180 million in college scholarships to more than 27,000 students, the news release said.
"From a young age, Mario Gabelli harnessed his entrepreneurial spirit and was able to transform his small brokerage into an international powerhouse," said Terrence J. Giroux, executive director of the association, in the release. "At the same time, he is one of the nation's most recognizable philanthropists and he believes firmly that education can transform lives. Mario displays passion, integrity and humility in all that he does."