Alumni and Friends - May 21, 2020

Dear Friends,

It is with a heavy heart that I write you today to share the passing of Tony DiGiorgio. It’s difficult to put into words how much Tony did for Winthrop because his influence and vision touches every inch of the campus even today. As the university’s second longest-serving president and the state of South Carolina’s longest-serving public university president, Tony, for nearly three decades, relentlessly pursued excellence for Winthrop. His leadership helped transform Winthrop into the national caliber university that it is today. His unwavering vision, commitment to diversity, demand for academic excellence and focus on Winthrop’s beautiful buildings and grounds are his legacies that will remain for years to come. His ultimate goal was to provide Winthrop students with the best collegiate experience that they could have, one that would provide them the foundation to live, learn and lead for a lifetime. He and his wife, Gale, sacrificed much for Winthrop and for the Rock Hill community. He always encouraged the Winthrop community to leave the university a better place for them having been a part of it, and I can say without a doubt that Tony left Winthrop a much better place because of his years of steadfast leadership.

Please see the media advisory below that Winthrop staff shared today on behalf of the DiGiorgio family.


George W. Hynd, Ed.D.
Interim President

Winthrop’s Visionary President DiGiorgio Dies in Arizona

Dr. Anthony J. DiGiorgio, who served as president of Winthrop University in Rock Hill for 24 years, passed away on Wednesday, May 20, in Tucson, AZ, where he and his wife Gale had retired. He was 79.

DiGiorgio, who was named Winthrop’s President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor in 2013, had been undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer since late March; the immediate cause of death was a pulmonary embolism, according to family members.

He is survived by his wife, Gale N. DiGiorgio, of the home, daughter Darrah DiGiorgio Johnson, of San Diego, CA., and three grandchildren. He was preceded in death by elder daughter, Dina, in 2007.

Under DiGiorgio, Winthrop University, once a small regional women’s college, achieved university status, then experienced a renaissance and period of unparalleled growth, becoming recognized nationally as one of the best public institutions of its type by several publications. For more than two decades, it received accolades for academic excellence, student character development, commitment to racial diversity, student programming, sound fiscal management and environmental and athletics achievements.

DiGiorgio’s signature “Vision of Distinction” university-wide planning process produced a detailed annual work plan, aligned with the university’s shared values, that guided faculty, staff and students in each year of progress. Under his leadership, academic programs were re-designed to include a series of “Touchstone” courses teaching 21st-century core competencies, the campus footprint was expanded by more than 15 acres, and Winthrop completed a series of new and re-purposed facilities valued at more than $100 million. He also built new relationships with Rock Hill by becoming a key leader in planning and launching the Knowledge Park re-development between Winthrop and Downtown Rock Hill.

Winthrop’s affiliated foundation launched its first-ever capital campaign in 1997, surpassing its goal and raising $31.2 million, and its second in 2011, which continued under his successors.

The son of an immigrant bricklayer, Anthony Joseph DiGiorgio was born in Sharon, Pennsylvania, in 1940.

After receiving his undergraduate degree at Gannon College, DiGiorgio earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from Purdue University. His career in education began in 1963 when he taught English at Belleville Senior High School in New Jersey. Three years later, he became an instructor and Assistant to the Dean of Humanities, Social Science and Education at Purdue University.

In 1970, he began the first of 19 years of service at The College of New Jersey, a former state teachers’ college that evolved to a nationally recognized comprehensive college.

In 1989, he was chosen to be Winthrop’s ninth president.

During his years at Winthrop, DiGiorgio also served two terms on the board of directors of the National Collegiate Athletics Association, as a member of the board of the Charlotte division of the Federal Reserve Bank, as the South Carolina representative to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities' State Leadership Council.

Locally, he was member of the board of the Charlotte Regional Partnership for Economic Development, the boards of York County Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Rock Hill Economic Development Corporation, and numerous professional organizations until he left the presidency in 2013. He retired from Winthrop in Spring 2017 and enjoyed both traveling and creating digital art from photographs taken worldwide.

Arrangements are being coordinated by Vistoso Funeral Home, Oro Valley, AZ., (520) 544-2285,

In celebration of Tony’s memory, donations may be made through the Winthrop Foundation to The Mary Grace and Antonino DiGiorgio Endowed Scholarship, which was created by the DiGiorgios to honor the president’s late parents. They had encouraged their son to pursue education as a path to success in their adopted American homeland. Alternatively, donations may be made to a charity of the donor’s choice.


Other resources regarding Dr. DiGiorgio’s accomplishments at Winthrop are available in the digital commons.