Throughout much of her adulthood, Christine (Chris) A. Carona ’85 has either experienced or witnessed the “Onlys”—a term used to describe what it feels like to be the only woman or member of an unrepresented group in the room at the workplace. Her newest gift to Syracuse University is designed to address that issue, creating an endowed faculty fellowship in the sciences to inspire young women and other underrepresented students to pursue careers in the sciences and rise to leadership positions in the workplace.
“I believe if you see it, you can become it,” says Carona, in explaining her motivation behind the new Carona, Beney and Malarney Family Endowed Faculty Fellowship in the Sciences (in the names of her parents, daughters and husband). The $1 million endowment includes matching funds from the University, made possible through the Forever Orange Faculty Excellence Program. Carona, a devoted alumnus, generous donor and engaged member of the Syracuse University Board of Trustees, says the design of the new Faculty Excellence Program gave her a greater opportunity to impact more lives, in much the same way the University impacted her own.
Now a Forbes Top Advisor, family wealth director and executive director in wealth management, the Syracuse native says she was only able to afford going to Syracuse University because her mother got a job in the health center there after her father suffered a career-ending heart attack. This opportunity wouldn’t have been available to her and her brother Phil Carona ’86 without tuition benefits provided to employees. Carona and her brother witnessed their stay-at-home mother literally reinvent herself to become the family’s sole breadwinner. “My mother could do anything she put her mind to. She taught me to always keep moving forward with perseverance, hard work and faith. My father was kind, generous and giving. Essentially, my parents made me feel like the sky was the limit. There were no boundaries.”
Carona embraced all the University had to offer, including the dance team and Alpha Phi (the University’s first sorority now celebrating its 150th year). She was inspired by professors and mentors she met through internships coordinated by the Martin J. Whitman School of Management. Still, after graduating with a bachelor of science degree in human development from Syracuse and completing a financial planning program at Northeastern University, Carona discovered the challenges of breaking boundaries in the working world and receiving appropriate recognition as a top-performing woman. She points to the experiences detailed in a TED Talk by her close friend, Elizabeth Rowe, the only woman in a principal flutist position in a top tier orchestra. “As a woman in my position, I didn’t fit in, I stuck out…. I have tried to be flawless, impeccable, unflappable.” Yet, gender inequities led Rowe to file (and win) an equal pay lawsuit against the Boston Symphony.
Carona advocates for opportunity and equity for all women. “Women can lift each other up to achieve new heights,” says Carona. She admires College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) Dean Karin Ruhlandt, impressed that along with her rise in a male-dominated field, she remains authentic, kind and a genuine mentor to students. Through her endowed gift, Carona hopes that the faculty member chosen for the fellowship housed in the college will influence hundreds of young students to excel in fields where they are underrepresented.
Carona’s own daughters are excelling as they pursue careers in the sciences. Sophie Beney ’22 majors in psychology and graphic design in A&S. Marissa Beney works at a cloud-computing company focused on pharmaceuticals and life sciences while pursuing an MBA at Whitman. Both were inspired by teachers at the Newton Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, where the motto is “Courage and Confidence.” Now, Carona wants to pass that confidence on, beyond her daughters and stepdaughter Caroline, who is a nurse, to other young women, along with a sense of optimism and possibilities.
Optimism is what Carona says she feels every time she steps onto the University campus. She quotes from a recent video called Rhapsody in Orange released by the University. “At Syracuse University, the climb up the hill is never easy, but there’s always a fresh view at the top.” Carona says she’s “hoping this gift opens the door to many possibilities for young women in the sciences and helps Dean Ruhlandt attract and retain talented faculty who are committed to mentoring and developing women in the sciences.”
Carona says her own mentors made her better: “The one thing they always said to me when I thanked them was ‘do the same for someone else.’ I’m honoring my promise through this endowment, grateful for their words and examples that guided me throughout my work life.”
Carona herself mentors students from high school through college, offering internship opportunities in wealth management, helping several young women launch careers in the financial services industry in the Boston area. She tries to instill in them a sense of mission in advocating for clients, especially those who find themselves overwhelmed by sudden life experiences that require personalized wealth management. As a testament to her professionalism, dedication and results, Carona was named a Forbes Top Women Wealth Advisor 2022, 2021, 2020 (and 2017), a Forbes Best-in-State Wealth Advisor 2022, 2021, 2020 and a Five Star Wealth Manager Award winner 2022, 2021 and 2020.
She was appointed in 2020 to Syracuse University’s Board of Trustees, serves on the Boston Regional Council for the University and is a member of The Hill Society. Previous gifts to the University were designated to support the Barnes Center at The Arch, the National Veterans Resource Center at the Daniel and Gayle D’Aniello Building, the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Fund, scholarships and Syracuse Responds.
She often speaks to other alumni about their personal goals in philanthropy, espousing a similar philosophy to what she practices in wealth management and the teachings of a priest who inspired her at Bishop Grimes Jr-Sr High (“to whom much is given much is asked”).
“While many donors have given back to the University in ways that have been transformational, I feel blessed to have been able to give back in a way that makes a significant impact while fitting my family’s goals,” says Carona. “Once you examine what your wishes and goals are, Syracuse University can design a plan that’s right for you and create a gift that really does matter to countless others.”
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