Trustee Jerry Volpe
Jerry Volpe doesn’t fit the profile of a typical University trustee.
He isn’t a senior executive, a politician, a lawyer, a physician or a philanthropist.
As a matter of fact, he doesn’t have a college degree.
Yet his 35 years as a union laborer give him a unique perspective that makes him an invaluable member of the board.
“I feel like I’m representing blue-collar workers,” said Volpe, who was appointed a commonwealth trustee by Gov. Tom Ridge in 2001.
Born and raised in Philadelphia’s Tacony neighborhood, Volpe became a unionized drywall finisher straight out of Abraham Lincoln High School in 1970. He rose steadily through the ranks of Drywall Finishers Union Local 1955, starting as a foreman and eventually becoming a business representative.
In 1996, the Drywall Finishers Union merged with District Council 21 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades of Philadelphia, a labor organization representing more than 6,000 local painters, drywall finishers, glaziers, wall coverers, sign and display workers, stadium workers, floor coverers, paint makers and many others. Volpe’s rise continued until he became the head of District Council 21 of IUPAT as business manager/secretary-treasurer.
Volpe’s background gives him a unique appreciation of the role of Temple’s capital improvement projects in the regional economy. His first contact with the University came when he worked as a drywall finisher during the construction of several Temple dormitories on Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
“I’m always amazed how the University keeps expanding,” Volpe said. “Temple is like a city within a city, growing each year. That means more jobs for workers in the area.”
In the years since he worked on Temple’s dorms, Volpe has developed an emotional bond with the University. It began with the enrollment of his son, Jerry Volpe Jr., who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 1997 (“One of the proudest days of my life,” Volpe said).
Volpe’s appointment to the board cemented the relationship. That year, Volpe was asked to announce the graduates at the School of Pharmacy at commencement.
“It was an absolute thrill,” said Volpe, whose niece Christi Cavalieri and nephew Peter Kruvczuk are Temple undergraduates. “I felt like a graduate myself. I invited my mother, my father, my wife and my two sons.”
“I’m proud to be a trustee,” he continued. “President Adamany has been a friend to organized labor the whole time I’ve been here, and the University’s reputation just keeps growing.”
- By Hillel J. Hoffmann