Graduation is quickly approaching, and a decision has been made on the guest speaker for commencement. Born and raised in Dunkirk, entrepreneur and philanthropist Donato J. Tramuto was chosen by President Virginia Horvath to give this year’s keynote address.
Tramuto found out about his role as the keynote speaker through a personal letter from Horvath.
“From what I understand, Horvath heard about my recently published book, ‘Life’s Bulldozer Moments: How Adversity Leads to Success in Life and Business.’ I think she may have read a recent article about me in The Buffalo News in which I talk about the book,” he said.
Tramuto grew up a few miles from Fredonia’s campus as one of six children of working class, Catholic parents. He said his parents helped influence him in his career.
“In spite of our modest means, [my parents] taught me the importance of giving back, and that lesson has influenced my career in healthcare and as a philanthropist,” he said. “I’ve had a very successful career working to improve the health care delivery system.”
Working for 37 years, Tramuto joined Tivity Health’s board in 2013. He then went on to become chairman in 2014 and CEO in 2015.
“My work over the last 37 years has been to integrate technology with programs that provide for expanded access to health care for every single citizen of the world,” he said.
Over time, Tramuto said he realized that business success alone was not enough. This led him to start up two nonprofit organizations, Health eVillages and the Tramuto Foundation.
Health eVillages focuses on providing health technology in the most challenging clinical environments. The Tramuto Foundation looks to help individuals and organizations achieve educational and healthcare goals.
Tramuto has been widely recognized for his decades of work toward social change. In 2014, he was honored alongside Hillary Clinton, Robert De Niro and Tony Bennett with the Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Award.
Tramuto said he has connections to the Fredonia campus community. Many family members of his have attended Fredonia State. His twin brother, Daniel Tramuta, is associate vice president of enrollment services. His cousin, JoAnn Niebel, is also a longtime member of the Fredonia College Council.
Because of this, Tramuto claims the trip back to the area will be a homecoming for him.
“Several family members will be attending the commencement, and I will be hosting what has quickly grown into a family reunion later in the evening,” he said. “It will be a very important and nostalgic day for me, made even more meaningful because I will be surrounded by the love of my family members and friends. I only wish my parents were alive to celebrate with us.”
With Dunkirk being his hometown, Tramuto accepted the role of keynote speaker for personal reasons.
“With my schedule normally booked out four to five months, I don’t think, in this case, I waited ten seconds before I cleared my calendar — nor did I seek the input from my communications staff — in accepting this great honor and to make it back to Dunkirk,” he said. “To be asked to give the keynote address to a thousand graduates and their parents who sacrificed everything to get them this far is deeply touching for me.”
Tramuto said some of the points he hopes to hit are a few of the lessons he’s learned throughout his professional and personal life. Some of these points are learning to accept and understand failure and knowing the importance of being transformational leaders of the future. One of the most important points Tramuto stressed, however, is to become the best person one can be, no matter what path they take in life.
“First, what I don’t want to do is to stand in front of hundreds of anxious, eager and well-prepared graduates and start lecturing them,” he said. “I have been working on my speech for several weeks and have taken great pains to make it a mix of personal experiences and lessons learned.”
Tramuto hopes that the graduates will connect with what he is saying and find it interesting. He also hopes that he can help every student to examine the most formative experiences in their lives — what he calls “bulldozer moments.”