Iona College Celebrates Next Chapter with Opening of the LaPenta School of Business

Ribbon cutting ceremony for new $38 million building honors Iona’s past, present and future in the City of New Rochelle.

Lectures & Events, Iona Forever

Robert LaPenta raises his fist in victory at the LaPenta School of Business ribbon cutting.

From left: Darrell P. Wheeler, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs; Hannah McGowan ’20, SGA president; Seamus Carey, president; Robert V. LaPenta ’67, ’00H, Board of Trustees member; and Andrew Dolce ’57 ’19H, Board of Trustees member.

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – Building on its legacy and launching boldly into the future, Iona University has cut the ribbon on its new $38 million LaPenta School of Business.

Robert V. LaPenta '67, '00H, an Iona alumnus and Board of Trustee member, laid the foundation for the new building with a transformational gift of $17.5 million, the largest in Iona's history. Just 18 months after breaking ground, he said the project has exceeded all expectations.

 "They put together a building that is going to be a beacon for the campus for the next 30 to 40 years to come," said LaPenta. "This great facility is going to attract talented students from across the country, as well as the highest quality faculty. I can't tell you how excited I am to be part of this amazing project." 

Designed with an iconic blend of the original, brick façade and a sleek, glass addition, the new LaPenta School of Business doubles the building's academic space to more than 68,000 square feet, including:

  • 21 classrooms with Bluetooth lecture podiums, touchscreen whiteboards, wireless projectors, reconfigurable workstations and video conferencing in three of the rooms;
  • An expanded LaPenta-Lynch Trading Floor with 27 desktop computers, 16 Bloomberg Terminals and a live, wrap-around stock ticker that can be seen throughout the building and even across the campus;
  • 56 faculty offices that house all business professors under the same roof for the first time ever, in addition to administrative offices and conference rooms;
  • A 110-seat lecture hall featuring oak paneling for optimal acoustics, plus two drop-down projectors;
  • 11 glass-enclosed, group study rooms; and
  • Eco-friendly features that enhance Iona's restoration of the original building, including LED light fixtures, daylight harvesting sensors, high-efficiency boilers, low-flow plumbing, a computerized building management system, and eco-friendly building materials selected throughout.  

Stunning views of the Iona campus and the New Rochelle skyline flood the entirety of the building, with a central atrium serving as the main gathering space. Versatile furniture pieces and inviting accent walls create a modern look while maintaining a distinctly Iona feel. An outdoor terrace on the third floor, meanwhile, is ideally situated to take in the sun while studying or watching a sporting event on the field below.  

"From the shores of the Isle of Iona to the hilltop upon which our new LaPenta School of Business overlooks the City of New Rochelle, Iona's legacy continues to be both our advantage and our future," said Seamus Carey, Ph.D., president of Iona University.  "The LaPenta School of Business has ignited fresh inspiration as we focus on becoming national leaders in experiential and service learning, pedagogical and curricular innovation, and administrative efficiency."

Download video transcript.

Toward that end, the new building encourages what research suggests is absolutely essential for student achievement – the ability to interact and collaborate across disciplines, said Darrell P. Wheeler, Ph.D., MPH, ACSW, Iona University provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. The benefits are similar for faculty, he added, in that they now have additional opportunities to engage across departments, as well as common spaces to collaborate and innovate for student success.

"Just walking out of your office or out of your classroom, you're going to have what I like to call 'highly positive collisions.' Those are the things that facilitate innovation," Wheeler said. "This sets a new bar in Westchester and the region. This defines the caliber and the potential of a 21st century education."

Iona worked with industry leaders on the design and execution of the project, including Gensler, the architecture, design and planning firm; Pavarini North East Construction Co., the general contractor; and JLL, the commercial real estate, investment and project management firm, which oversaw the project development.

"We wanted the design of the new LaPenta School of Business to honor the rich history of the original building and Iona University, while also providing a modern environment that will propel students forward into successful careers," said Mark Thaler, Gensler Project Director. "The new facility offers abundant space for dynamic learning and collaboration that will train Iona's graduates for a workplace landscape that is changing faster than ever before."

Dr. Wheeler delivers his speech to a packed atrium at the LaPenta School of Business ribbon cutting.

"This sets a new bar in Westchester and the region. This defines the caliber and the potential of a 21st century education."

A Transformative Experience

While LaPenta's success and philanthropy have been remarkable, he credits his experience at Iona for setting the course. Growing up, he said, he was just like any other kid from Yonkers, surrounded by immigrant families from Ireland and Italy. He watched his father, John, work hard to bring home $45 a week from Sherwin-Williams, a paint company. His mother, Nancy, always had a loving meal on the table. Yet when his father passed with only a meager $90 a month pension, LaPenta was determined to avoid a similar fate.

“I said to myself, ‘What happened to my dad is not going to happen to me,’” he said.

What led LaPenta to Iona was a conversation he had while playing basketball at a local playground. He was about 15 or 16 years old, attending Lincoln High School in Yonkers, but he'll never forget the story. An older boy's father had passed away, and the family couldn't afford the college tuition. Saying college was critical for the boy's success, Iona showed compassion and offered him financial assistance to finish his studies.

“For me, that became what Iona was all about,” LaPenta said.

Students study in one of the glass-enclosed spaces at the LaPenta School of Business.

The new LaPenta School of Business doubles the building's academic space to more than 68,000 square feet and, among many other improvements, features 11 glass-enclosed, group study rooms.

LaPenta enrolled at Iona in 1963."It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," he said with a laugh, quoting from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. He admittedly spent too much time socializing and not enough time studying, and he ended his first semester with a probationary 1.5 GPA.

"I got a letter from the school after my first semester, and let's just say it wasn't a congratulatory note," LaPenta joked. "My father got that note and I was working at a local food store at the time. The manager came to get me and he said, 'Your father is on the phone and you need to put earplugs in your ears.'"

The next semester, LaPenta refocused his energies and dedicated himself to his studies. He finished the semester with a perfect 4.0. That was his transformative experience, he said.

"Brother Power, the president at the time, called me and said, 'I've never seen anything like that before in my life,'" recalled LaPenta. "What that meant to me was, if you want to succeed, you have to keep your eye on the finish line and work hard to get there. That's the philosophy I followed the rest of my life."

LaPenta earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in 1967 from the business school that now bears his name. He said Iona's legacy of providing an Irish Christian Brothers education made all the difference.

"Iona gave me the keys to open a lot of doors that would lead me to success," said LaPenta, of Westport, Conn., founding managing partner of Aston Capital Partners, a private investment company specializing in military intelligence, homeland security companies and companies involved in green technology. "You can see it in the graduates – and I hire a lot of them. Iona graduates are well-rounded, passionate about success, willing to roll up their sleeves to get a job done, and they're ethical."

Pipers play outside of the LaPenta School of Business during the ribbon cutting.

When LaPenta was 15 or 16 years old, Iona offered an older friend of his whose father had died financial assistance to finish his studies. This compassion "...became what Iona was all about,” LaPenta said.

A Campus Has Grown

Iona University opened its doors in 1940 with just nine Christian Brothers and six lay faculty greeting the first class. Their goal was to open new paths to economic and social advancement for the next generation of New York’s working class, a goal that is still very much engrained in the character of Iona University.

Iona's enrollment spiked following the end of World War II, yet it lacked the facilities to keep up. Turning to the Army, the College ordered huts that served as classrooms. Considering that 80 percent of Iona students in 1946 were veterans, the students felt right at home. But the College needed a long-term solution.

Good news came in 1952. After years of implementing recommendations from the Middle States Association, the worldwide leader in accreditation and school improvement, Iona University received its official accreditation. It was as though Iona had finally been given the green light to build a college campus.

When news reached Br. Patrick B. Doyle, one of Iona's founding faculty members and a revered classical scholar, he turned to Virgil's epic Latin poem, the Aeneid. Flipping to a passage about the construction of Carthage, he read: "O fortunati quorum iam moenia surgunt." It is a phrase that rings just as true for Iona today as it did then: "Oh, fortunate ones, whose walls are rising."

"The opening of the new LaPenta School of Business complements and enhances all the exciting innovations happening on the Iona campus, including the newly founded Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation and the recently renovated Hynes Athletics Center," Carey said. "Iona University is well positioned for continued success and is fortunate for such a supportive and engaged alumni network."

Iona University president Seamus Carey, Ph.D., and Mr. LaPenta hold up the LaPenta opening bell at the ribbon cutting.

Left to right: Iona College President Seamus Carey, Ph.D. and Robert V. LaPenta ’67, ’00H, Board of Trustees member.

See more photos from the ribbon cutting here.

Photos by Ben Hider

Robert V. LaPenta has more than 40 years of executive management experience and is currently founding managing partner of Aston Capital Partners, a private investment company specializing in military intelligence, homeland security companies and companies involved in green technology. He also serves as chairman and CEO of Revolution Lighting Technologies and is a co-founder and investor in the new publicly traded defense and aerospace company, The LGL Group. Prior to these endeavors, Mr. LaPenta co-founded both L-1 Identity Solutions and L-3 Communications, which merged with Harris Corporation to create L3Harris Technologies Inc., the sixth-largest aerospace and defense contractor in the world. Also an avid participant in the sport of horse racing as an owner, LaPenta's horses captured wins in the last leg of the coveted Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes in 2008 with Da'Tara and 2017 with Tapwrit. Most recently in 2018, his horse, Catholic Boy, earned a win at the prestigious Travers Stakes in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. His horses have amassed over $50 million in racing and sire earning.

Gensler is a global architecture, design, and planning firm with 49 locations and more than 6,000 professionals networked across Asia, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, and the Americas. Founded in 1965, the firm serves more than 3,500 active clients in virtually every industry. Gensler designers strive to make the places people live, work, and play more inspiring, more resilient, and more impactful.

Pavarini North East Construction Co., LLC, located at 30 Oak Street in Stamford, Conn., is a full-service construction manager/general contractor services firm dedicated to providing outstanding client services and has achieved an excellent reputation in doing so. Founded in 1896, Pavarini is proud of our successful 124-year history providing construction management (CM) and general contracting (GC) services. Pavarini provides unsurpassed hands-on experience, innovative leadership and an aggressive approach to meeting all of our client's needs.

JLL (NYSE: JLL) is a leading professional services firm that specializes in real estate and investment management. Our vision is to reimagine the world of real estate, creating rewarding opportunities and amazing spaces where people can achieve their ambitions. In doing so, we will build a better tomorrow for our clients, our people and our communities. JLL is a Fortune 500 company with annual revenue of $16.3 billion, operations in over 80 countries and a global workforce of more than 93,000 as of September 30, 2019. JLL's Project and Development Services division helps clients through all stages of realizing challenging capital projects, with an emphasis on managing scope, cost, schedule and the mitigation of risk. JLL PDS first works with clients to define their project success criteria, then assembles the professional team required to deliver the project successfully to completion. JLL PDS has a diverse practice, accomplishing projects of all sizes, building types and serving many different industries. JLL is the brand name, and a registered trademark, of Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated.

Founded in 1940, Iona University is a master's-granting private, Catholic, coeducational institution of learning in the tradition of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers. Iona's 45-acre New Rochelle campus and 28-acre Bronxville campus are just 20 miles north of Midtown Manhattan. With a total enrollment of nearly 4,000 students and an alumni base of more than 50,000 around the world, Iona is a diverse community of learners and scholars dedicated to academic excellence and the values of justice, peace and service. Iona is highly accredited, offering undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, science and business administration, as well as Master of Arts, Master of Science and Master of Business Administration degrees and numerous advanced certificate programs. Iona students enjoy small class sizes, engaged professors and a wide array of academic programs across the School of Arts & Science; LaPenta School of Business; NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences; and Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Iona is widely recognized in prestigious rankings, including The Princeton Review’s 2024 national list of “The Best 389 Colleges” and The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse’s “2024 Best Colleges in America,” which ranked Iona at #66 in the nation overall and #8 in the nation among Catholic schools. Iona’s LaPenta School of Business is also accredited by AACSB International, a recognition awarded to just six percent of business schools worldwide. In addition, The Princeton Review recognized Iona’s on-campus MBA program as a “Best Business School for 2023.” Iona also offers a fully online MBA program for even greater flexibility. In July 2021, Iona announced the establishment of the NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences, which is now principally located on Iona’s Bronxville campus in collaboration with NewYork-Presbyterian. Connecting to its Irish heritage, the University also recently announced it is expanding abroad with a new campus in County Mayo, Ireland. A school on the rise, Iona officially changed its status from College to University on July 1, 2022, reflecting the growth of its academic programs and the prestige of an Iona education.