BY DAVID BROWN
When David Malone’s children were small, they saw him as something of a giant, towering to well over six feet, strong, agile and prone to the quick bursts of energy that defined his days as a basketball star at Allegheny College. Now that they are grown, Zachary, Max, and Callahan Malone describe their father as a man of giant character. Words that best sum him up, they say, are integrity, courage, persistence, big-heartedness–and, oh yes, funny as all get-out, thanks to his dry humor. “He’s pretty much given us the best life that anyone could ask,” says Max.
Malone gives to a lot of people. Aside from his duties as president and CEO of Gateway Financial, a downtown Pittsburgh investment, insurance, and wealth management firm catering to Fortune 500 companies and high net worth individuals, he works on so many community and nonprofit boards–including RMU’s–that some have taken to calling him “the ubiquitous Dave Malone.” As chairman of the university’s capital campaign cabinet, he has led a successful effort despite a recession, raising $36 million so far toward a goal of $40 million.
In appreciation of that effort and his lifelong devotion to worthy causes, the Board of Trustees surprised their vice chairman with a special honor at the opening of the new School of Business building on September 6. They created a new annual university award, the David J. Malone Volunteer Service Award, and presented him with the first one.
“Dave is the epitome of someone who makes volunteer service a real art form,” says President Gregory Dell’Omo, Ph.D. “He has an unbelievable passion for success in everything he does, so I had all the confidence in the world that he would make this campaign a real game changer for RMU–and he has. I’ll never be able to thank him enough.”
“He does seem to be everywhere at the same time,” says Gary Claus ‘74, chairman of the Board of Trustees. “I think that’s the nature of who he is. He is very much a dedicated community servant.”
“David has a forward-looking attitude that is evident in all he does for Robert Morris University and the community at large,” says Trustee Patricia Rooney, honorary chairwoman of the capital campaign cabinet.
The list of organizations whose boards Malone serves on is impressive: Pennsylvania Workforce Investment, Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Allegheny County, YouthPlaces, Western Pennsylvania Surgery Center, The Technology Collaborative, Jewish Healthcare Foundation, Strategic Investment Funds and the Holy Family Institute. He served on a panel tasked with solving Pittsburgh’s city employee pension problems. He’s an activist at work for the Pittsburgh Promise, a scholarship program for students who graduate from Pittsburgh Public Schools, and he has received a Lifetime Legend Award for his volunteer work for Community College of Allegheny County.
His work with RMU is particularly gratifying, Malone says, because the university has a keen focus in an area he is passionate about–preparing young people not only to find jobs when they graduate, but to be successful at their jobs as well. “If you talk to employers,” he says, “you find that universally they will tell you that Robert Morris graduates are ready to work.”
RMU’s emphasis on communication skills is the key, he says. “If you are not a good communicator, you start out in a hole,” he says. “Robert Morris has had a focus on communications for a long time. When kids come out, they are highly confident. They are ready to do a PowerPoint presentation–or whatever–in front of people. They are comfortable doing that. In this current environment, employers want people to be in working groups; they want them to be able to communicate; they want them to be able to solve problems.”
Civic leader and philanthropist Elsie Hillman serves with Malone on the advisory council of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. She considers him one of the region’s best assets. “He is a very special person,” she says. “He cares about what he does. It’s not a sort of casual, ‘I’m here for now and I’m out of here tomorrow.’ He is committed.”
Last year, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pittsburgh chose Malone as their honoree–or victim–for its 31st Annual Corporate Roast. More than 400 guests at CONSOL Energy Center roared with riotous laughter as roasters David Morehouse, Dr. Ken Melani, Sy Holzer and Art Rooney poked fun at Malone. The event raised $265,000 to support one-on-one mentoring for young people across Southwestern Pennsylvania.“It was brutal,” Malone recalls with a grin.
“It was one of the funniest nights of my life,” says Nancy, his wife of 32 years. “He can take a joke. He’s been a good sport his whole life. He’s a good guy–honest, funny, sincere–and, most importantly, he’s a great, great dad.”
The Malone children go back home to Pine Township for dinner every Sunday to visit their parents and Cooper, the family dog. A mutt the Malones adopted from an animal shelter, Cooper has a mischievous streak. “He’s bad. He will steal. Just the other day, my little niece had a sandwich in her hand and Cooper came by and grabbed it,” Malone says. “One of our neighbors called the police because our dog was walking around. Now Cooper has a police record.”
Malone says his volunteer work is inspired by wanting to give back blessings he received from his parents, Mary and R.J. “Bob” Malone. “I think the opportunities that were presented to me were in large measure because of my family and what was given to me–the good fortune of having the parents I had. Not everyone has that opportunity.”
Many young people are blocked from higher education by circumstances of birth, he says, citing a study showing a 90% correlation between pre-kindergarten education and performance on standardized achievement tests at the entry level of college. “If kids get some relevance into their education system along the way–whether it’s a good teacher, some experience, an uncle or an aunt, whatever–they can turn it around. We absolutely must focus on this, as a county and a region.”