Richard Gadomski, AFSC (’62)
“I graduated from high school with less than a ‘C’ average. I never thought I was college material.” Growing up as an inner-city kid in Northwest Chicago, Richard “Dick” Gadomski had what he describes as a traditional, parochial, Catholic, immigrant upbringing. A second-generation American on both sides of his family — his father’s parents were from Poland and his mother’s from Italy — he learned early a strong work ethic.
Dick had planned to go into the Navy when he graduated from St. Patrick High School, a Christian Brothers high school in Chicago. But Brother Cyprian Moriarty, who had graduated from high school at Christian Brothers College in Memphis, convinced him to make a recruiting trip down south to take a look at the college division of his alma mater. When he arrived in Memphis, Dick was impressed with all of the facilities (which were all still pretty new in the late 1950s) and the number of St. Pat’s graduates who were there, so he decided to give college a try.
Dick and his late first wife, Delores Sabbatini, met while he was a CBC student and she was studying at nearby Siena College, which was CBC’s Dominican “sister” school (and closed soon after CBC became coeducational in 1970). They married in his senior year, and he began to look for work — but graduate school had also become a new interest and priority. Of the hundred resumes he sent out, he garnered six job offers at companies like Firestone, DuPont, NASA, and North American Aviation. North American Aviation also offered a graduate school reimbursement program and was near the University of Southern California, so that’s where the Gadomskis went — as soon as he graduated from CBU with his BS in Chemical Engineering.
In his new job in California, Dick became a bona fide rocket scientist, working in the aerospace industry on Saturn second-stage boosters. In a couple of years, he also earned a master’s in Mechanical Engineering at USC — and the young couple welcomed their son Gregory. They soon relocated to Huntsville, AL — where the aerospace industry was also beginning to take off — and Dick accepted a position at Brown Engineering (which is now a subsidiary of Teledyne). Their daughter Regina was born in Huntsville, but the Gadomskis soon moved back to Memphis to care for Delores’ family, where Dick took a job at the Humko division of Krafts Foods — and returned to his first love of Chemical Engineering by working with cooking oils.
A few years later, the entire family relocated to Germany where Dick had taken a position with BASF, and they lived and worked internationally (in 14 countries) before returning to the U.S. After a few years with BASF in New Jersey, Dick decided he wanted to start his own business. In 1974, he returned to Memphis again and founded PSI Process Systems, which eventually offered a wide range of engineering, fabrication, and construction services for process-oriented industrial facilities. Twenty-five years later, he sold PSI to the German conglomerate Lurgi — not long before Delores passed away from breast cancer, which led Dick to retire and rededicate his time to serving others.
Throughout his very successful business career, Dick had quietly “shared the wealth” by contributing generously to educational and community service organizations. The story of his philosophy of philanthropy begins with his parents, both of whom worked, and although they weren’t rich, they were giving. That and his work ethic carried over into his enterprises. “I ran a business, and we were always philanthropic; it just came out of me,” Dick said. “I make my money here, I’m going to support the community here.”
When he sold his company, he used some of his profits and a charitable trust that had been set up previously to create the Gadomski Family Foundation Fund through the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis. Through this foundation and other donations, he has actively supported the Catholic Diocese of Memphis, United Way, Church of the Holy Spirit, March of Dimes, Youth Villages, Memphis Regional Chamber, Renewable Fuels Association, Memphis Bioworks Foundation, and a variety of local youth sports programs.
But CBU has always held a special place in Dick Gadomski’s heart. He became involved with the Alumni Association in the 1970s, and it wasn’t long before he was recruited to join the CBU Board of Trustees. He eventually served three different terms — 28 years total — and is now honored as a Trustee Emeritus. Both of his children graduated from CBU — Greg in 1986 and Regina in 1988.
Buildings around campus and multiple scholarships bear testimony to Dick’s life and influences. Sabbatini Lounge in the Thomas Center is named for Dolores and her parents. He has given an endowed
scholarships in memory of Dolores, and when his son Greg passed away in 2003, the Gregory Raymond Gadomski Triangle Scholarship was established in his memory by his father and Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity. He has additionally endowed scholarships in honor of Woody Jenne and Ernie Micek, the men who helped get his start with PSI, and there are multiple other annual and endowed scholarships that he and his second wife, Flo, make possible as well — all of which have literally aided hundreds of students in achieving their goals and degrees at CBU.
In recognition of his service and generosity, the Christian Brothers made him an Affiliate of the Brothers of the Christian Schools — their highest and rarest recognition which, in effect, makes the honoree a member of the Brothers’ order (thus the AFSC designation that he may use after his name). In 2016, CBU’s nationally heralded engineering school was officially named the Gadomski School of Engineering, in recognition of Dick’s decades of support.
Last year, he was recognized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals as the 2021 Outstanding Philanthropist at its Crystal Awards.
CBU has grown and changed over the years, but the focus is still on excellent teaching and a faculty that knows and cares about its students. Our teachers have the time to help a student live up to his or her potential, just as Christian Brothers teachers did years ago for me.