Trustee Ronald R. Donatucci — attorney,
veteran Philadelphia official and former state representative — says that
his “heart was in politics” ever since he was a young man. If so, then
politics has shared space with another long-time love: his alma mater,
Donatucci was born and raised in South Philadelphia’s Girard Estate
neighborhood. His father, Thomas, was the first Italian manager in the
grocery chain that became Acme, and later founded his own supermarket in
South Philly. Donatucci’s father was also politically active, serving as a
ward leader and a state official under state Auditor General Robert P. Casey
(prior to Casey’s election as governor).
When the time came to consider college, Donatucci’s choice was clear.
“Temple was a family tradition,” he said. “I had it on both sides: My
father, who was in the class of 1935, loved Temple, and so did my mother’s
brother.” (Donatucci’s brother, Pennsylvania state Rep. Robert C. Donatucci,
and his sister, Rita, are also Temple alumni.)
Shortly after Donatucci graduated in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in
political science from the College of Liberal Arts, his father died
suddenly. Stunned, Donatucci heeded the advice of friends who encouraged him
to go to law school. He attended classes at the University of Baltimore
School of Law, commuting to Baltimore four nights a week while working as an
auditor for the state.
In 1972, Donatucci took a job as a law clerk in Philadelphia’s Solicitor’s
Office under Mayor Frank Rizzo. It was the beginning of a 34-year career in
municipal government. The following year, Donatucci was appointed chief of
enforcement of Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections and
then counsel to the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
In 1974, Donatucci was elected Democratic ward leader of Philadelphia’s 26th
ward (the area around the stadium complex), a position he still holds. Two
years later, he successfully ran for Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives
in the state’s 185th district, an office now held by his brother, Robert.
After three years in Harrisburg, Donatucci was elected Register of Wills and
Clerk of Orphans’ Court for the City of Philadelphia in 1979; 27 years
later, he is in his seventh term.
Although little known, the Register of Wills plays a critical role in the
city’s legal and economic life. Functions of the office include determining
whether documents offered for probate should be received as last wills, and
hearing testimony when wills are challenged. According to Donatucci, his
office handles 7,000 estates a year, either by will or intestate.
Donatucci, who was appointed to Temple’s Board of Trustees earlier this year
by Gov. Edward G. Rendell, is thrilled with the changes he has witnessed at
“I’ve seen the transformation,” Donatucci said. “It’s a first-class academic
school. When parents come to visit Temple now, they see a well-lit,
beautiful campus with state-of-the-art buildings and wonderful eateries. The
University’s growth has revitalized the whole area.”
Donatucci acknowledges that plenty of hurdles remain, foremost among them
fundraising, an area where Temple historically has lagged.
“I believe the big challenge will be our finances,” Donatucci said. “We need
to mobilize our alumni, staff and faculty. Everybody needs to understand how
important it is to participate in fundraising.”
Donatucci is certain Temple’s extended family is up to the task.
“When alumni learn what’s happening here at Temple, especially if they walk
through the campus, they’ll see how their school hasn’t just survived,” he
said, “it has flourished.”
— Hillel J. Hoffmann
© 2006 Temple Times