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Building a Legacy: Corso Family’s Past Inspires Investment in Ivey’s Future

Apr 10, 2024

Corso Classroom Celebration

When John L. Corso, HBA ’92, was growing up, his father spoke often about his time at Ivey, then known as Western Business School. “I never knew much about his undergrad, but I heard everything about his time at Western. He had an enormous sense of pride, of achievement,” remembers the younger Corso. “He leaned on his experiences there throughout his entire career.”

The son of first-generation Italian Canadians, John J. Corso, MBA ’62, was the first in his family to attend university, so attending graduate school was significant. Add a budding relationship and the fact that he was just 21, moving from Montreal to London, Ontario was a big deal. His girlfriend, Donna, recognized the impact an MBA from a prestigious business school would have on his career and encouraged him to attend despite the distance. The two wrote letters every day, and after graduation, Donna and John J. were married. While at Western, the elder Corso formed another significant relationship, with Tony Mizgala, MBA ’61, who became his business partner in the executive search firm Corso, Mizgala + French.

As John L. approached his own university decision, a class visit to a Toronto-area campus failed to ignite a spark and he told his parents he didn’t think university was for him. “It’s time we visit Western,” said his father. Following a tour of his father’s alma mater with Professor Emeritus Jim Erskine, MBA ’67, the spark that was missing when visiting other schools finally ignited for Corso.

“I came to appreciate what Western meant to my father and who he turned out to be,” Corso recalls. “I realized if it was good for him, it would be good for me.” After two years at King’s University College, he completed his HBA. The connection continued with his sister, Andrea Corso Pape, BA (Hons) ’96. “Western became part of our family,” says Corso. “My parents never pushed, we were pulled to it because of his experience, and just fell in love with the School.”

Having graduated exactly 30 years apart, father and son experienced milestone reunions concurrently, and twice attended Homecoming together. In 2022, for the elder Corso’s 60th and the younger’s 30th reunion, father joined son at the HBA ’92 section dinner, and son joined father at the Golden Alumni Brunch. “To be able to attend with my dad was so wonderful. I was so proud to introduce him to my classmates.”

The memories of Homecoming would prove even more poignant, when his father passed away a few short months later on November 8, 2022, of COVID-related complications. “It was very sudden,” says Corso. “He never fully retired, he was active and engaged. I’ll cherish that reunion and the time with my father at Ivey forever. It was really a special weekend.”

As the one-year anniversary of his father’s passing approached, Corso considered a fitting memorial. He remembered his father mentioning he’d like to see his name on something one day. Since he hadn’t had a chance to fulfill that dream, Corso thought a donation to name something in his honour might be the right choice. He discussed the idea with Andrea and she was on board.

In thinking about the different things that John J. had been involved with during his life — he was an active church and community volunteer, as well as an accomplished businessman — Corso kept returning to Western and Ivey. “Ivey was a very special place for him and was something he would be proud to associate his name with. The tie-in that both my sister and I attended Western meant even more,” says Corso.

When he inquired about naming opportunities within the School, Corso was thrilled to discover there was one classroom available to be named. That the classroom was an MBA classroom felt like fate. “My father was a real teacher and a coach and my parents were very engaged mentors. A classroom is very symbolic. There’s a permanence that I think befits who he was.”

Corso and his sister decided they also wanted to recognize the supportive role his mother played in their father's educational journey and throughout their 59-year marriage. The donation to name the Corso Classroom — on Ivey’s ground floor across from the MBA Lounge — also supports the Dean’s Strategic Investment Fund, which allows the School to adapt and innovate in response to its most pressing challenges and new opportunities. “Neither my father nor I were micromanagers; we always believed in partnering with great people and supporting them. We felt that the Dean is in the best position to use the funds wherever the need is greatest.”

On November 11, 2023, just over a year after John J. Corso’s death, a group of family and friends — including the younger Corso’s HBA ’92 classmates Janet Bannister and John Loh, and section head of his HBA class, Professor Kathleen Slaughter (retired) — gathered to unveil the plaque dedicating the Corso Classroom. “It was a special day,” says Corso. “We’re very proud to be associated with Western and with Ivey and we hope the School continues to flourish.”