UNH names 40M residence hall for Joseph E. 'Chick' Celentano Sr.
WEST HAVEN, Sep 09, 2013 (Menafn - New Haven Register - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --The University of New Haven will rename its newest and largest residence hall in honor of businessman Joseph E. "Chick" Celentano Sr., owner of Chick's Drive-in on the shore.
"It's quite an honor, it really is," Celentano said Monday afternoon.
Celentano, 80, is being recognized for his contribution of 2.8 acres on the Boston Post Road across from the UNH main campus.
"This is about a 2 million gift," UNH President Steven H. Kaplan said Monday afternoon.
Kaplan said the site could potentially be the fourth academic building on that side of the Post Road.
"It will not be used for a residential hall," Kaplan said.
The donation has great symbolic value, Kaplan said.
"The University of New Haven focuses on hands-on learning and the entrepreneurial spirit," he said.
"The reason that his gift is important beyond the monetary value is he has embodied in his career the entrepreneurial spirit that we try to instill in our students," Kaplan said.
Celentano said he likes the style of Kaplan and George S. Synodi, vice president for finance and administration.
"Not only are they educators, but they're business savvy, which is unusual in educators," Celentano said.
Celentano believes in the future of the city and of the Allingtown section as a center of education.
West Haven has it all, Celentano said.
"You've got good public safety and education; how could you miss? Everything else falls into place," he said.
The city of New Haven is looking at an Engineering, Science University Magnet School adjacent to the University of New Haven campus, and, he said, "you've got the college."
"The donation is a start. I see the development of Allingtown as going right down to the center," Celentano said.
Kaplan said Celentano is a legend.
"He is a great storyteller, and he has amazing stories about all he has done in his life and his career," Kaplan said.
The 40 million Soundview Hall will be renamed Joseph "Chick" Celentano Hall.
It opened in August 2009 and has views of Long Island Sound and downtown New Haven from its upper floors.
It is the first "green" residence hall at UNH and has received LEED gold certification status. It has apartments for 402 students.
The university also will award annual scholarships in Celentano's name to city students attending UNH.
Celentano has donated undeveloped commercial properties at 519 and 541 Boston Post Road; and a residential site at 32 Hoffman St.
"This is a big piece of property right across the street from the campus," Kaplan said Monday.
Celantano is a major property owner in the city, Kaplan said. "He's talking about other ways he can support the university in the short and the long term," Kaplan said.
Celentano, a city native, has been in business more than 60 years on Beach Street.
He has businesses in Florida, as well as Connecticut. Chick's Drive-in was founded by Celentano's father.
His parents moved to Beach Street in the early 1940s from East Avenue, he said.
Celentano is a Navy veteran of the Korean War, 1950-53, attached to Air Force Attack Squadron 175 and Fleet Aircraft Service Squadron 6. He also served on the USS Layte, the USS Antietam and the USS Saipan.
He has volunteered on many city boards, including the Board of Police Commissioners, and on the Planning and Zoning and Parks and Recreation commissions. In 1969, he was named the Outstanding Citizen of West Haven.
President Gerald Ford appointed him to serve on Selective Service during the Vietnam War, Celentano said.
"It was quite an honor too," Celentano said.
One of his "best" accomplishments, he said, was in 1992 when he bought the home of the late entertainer Jackie Gleason on the grounds of the Inverrary Country Club in Lauderhill, Fla.
"What a home," he said.
Asked to recall a Gleason, Celentano had it on the tip of his lips: "And awaaay we go," he said with a laugh.
Call Phyllis Swebilius at 203-789-5681.
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