Written by: Delia Perez, CFRE, Director of Planned Giving, Fairleigh Dickinson University
As gift planning officers, we focus on relationship building with our benefactors to ultimately connect their passion with our nonprofit’s needs. As we get to know and build trust and rapport with our donors, we come to understand what they value and want to achieve with their philanthropic investment. The Marzan brothers and their love of running led them to Fairleigh Dickinson University and ultimately, the creation of legacy gifts for scholarships to honor the memory of their FDU mentors.
Paul (left) and Peter (right) Marzan run into FDU cross country stardom in 1977.
Twin brothers, Peter and Paul Marzan, unexpectedly found their way to Fairleigh Dickinson University, and it all started with their love of running. They grew up in Park Ridge, N.J., where they attended elementary school and graduated from Park Ridge High School in 1976. Their mother, Geraldine, worked hard to raise her boys on her salary as a cashier in a local supermarket and knew that a college education was far beyond their means. She encouraged them to study hard and get good grades.
The Marzan brothers were outstanding athletes at Park Ridge High School and their track records caught the eye of a volunteer ‘talent scout,’ Elia Stratis, who ultimately directed them to FDU. Elia, BS in accounting (’67), MBA (’76), was a member of the FDU Board of Trustees, had served as president of the FDU Board of Governors, and was an avid soccer player.
Paul says, “We were contacted by Elia who was working with FDU’s Athletic Department. We didn’t respond right away, so Elia kept calling us throughout the spring and summer of 1976. He had a video of Peter and I winning track and cross country events. He wanted to meet us and our Mom, and we invited him to our home. Elia arrived with a fruit basket for us and discussed FDU athletics, and the rest is history.”
According to Peter, “Elia was shopping for talent to help the assistant athletic director and coach, Walter Marusyn, build better soccer, cross country and track teams for the University. He made it his personal quest to recruit exceptional runners for FDU’s athletic teams.” After that conversation, Peter and Paul were offered scholarships and enrolled at FDU for the 1976 fall semester. Peter says, “Paul was the top recruit that year and the scholarships made a college education possible for us. Mom was thrilled beyond words and always left two dollars on the kitchen table for us to take to FDU each day. Our teammates told us that Elia showed up in their living rooms with fruit baskets too and also encouraged them to consider FDU athletics. His strategy worked.”
During their running days at FDU, Peter and Paul, and their teammates, made Coach Walter Marusyn very proud, especially with the record-setting performance of the 1977 cross country team. In 1978, Paul was the Mid-Atlantic Region nationally ranked team’s MVP (most valuable player) in cross country and co-captain of FDU’s cross country team in 1979. Through it all, they remained grateful for their track and cross country athletic scholarships that funded their FDU education.
Ever the entrepreneur, Elia left a prominent accounting firm and founded his own firm, Campos & Stratis, in 1969. He was a pioneer in the field of forensic accounting. During their four years at FDU, Peter and Paul worked as summer interns with Elia, who also mentored their educational, athletic and early professional lives.
Peter earned his BS (’80) in marketing and was hired as an internal auditor for Butler International. He also enrolled in FDU’s MBA program and in March 1985, Elia hired him to work with his firm. Peter completed his MBA (’86) in accounting and passed the CPA exam that same year. He continued to work at Campos & Stratis as a senior auditor until Elia’s unexpected passing in December 1988.
In March 1989, Peter accepted a position at Evonik Corporation and became an accomplished lead buyer for 25 rail-to-truck transfer terminals, a bulk-truck transportation program, and a 40-site 3-PL (third party logistics) warehouse network. In July 2014, he was promoted to Category Manager within the logistics department at Evonik Corporation, until his retirement in January 2016. Peter now volunteers with the Humane Society of Broward County, FL., invests in real estate and start-up biotech companies, and is still running.
Similarly, Paul earned his BS (’80) in marketing. He worked with the marketing department at Mikasa China & Glass for four years and then advanced to its crystal inventory control team for eleven years. In 1995, Paul began his new role as a logistics manager with Waterford/Wedgwood USA in charge of three of the nine departments at the main warehouse. Starting in 2000, he oversaw the design and opening of a new satellite distribution center for Wedgwood USA in Cranbury, N.J., and served as one of six project managers implementing its bar code driven warehouse management system.
In 2004, Paul left corporate life behind as his entrepreneurial spirit urged him to start his own landscaping business. At the same time, he also began his own real estate investment company, purchasing undervalued residential real estate, rehabilitating the properties, and marketing these as rental properties. He now considers himself ‘semi-retired’ as he successfully manages his portfolio of residential rental properties located in Hamilton Township and Trenton, N.J., and New York City. And just like his brother, Paul is still running.
In retrospect, the Marzan brothers credit Elia Stratis as their insightful “angel investor,” along with Coach Walter Marusyn, who recognized their talent and potential at FDU. Their FDU education and experience provided a pathway to success, fostered enduring friendships with members of their cross country team, and changed their lives forever.
The Marzan brothers believe in giving back and making a difference in the lives of others. Peter says, “As we get older, we feel more of a responsibility to give back. Philanthropy and charity to others take on a higher priority. We didn’t have much when we were young and now we want to open doors for other students to have a chance at FDU too.” Paul agrees and says, “We went to a school that did its best for us and now it’s time to give back. FDU is a good place to put your money to work helping students achieve a great education.”
Peter and Paul truly appreciate their FDU education and experience. Their estate plans include legacy gifts to further the impact of existing scholarships honoring the memory of their mentors, Elia Stratis and Walter Marusyn. Now it’s their turn to open doors for the next generation of student athletes who are ready to run with FDU.
Peter (left) and Paul (right) Marzan with Delia G. Perez, CFRE, FDU Director of Planned, in Hamilton Township, NJ (June 22, 2019)