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Villanova University’s Charles Widger School of Law Receives $15 million gift from The John F. Scarpa Foundation to Launch New Phase of Entrepreneurship Initiatives and Scholarship

In recognition of Scarpa’s lifetime giving, the Law School building to be named John F. Scarpa Hall

John F. Scarpa

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Villanova University President, the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, today announced a $15 million gift from the John F. Scarpa Foundation to further elevate the Charles Widger School of Law as a leader in entrepreneurship and law, in addition to strengthening entrepreneurial expertise, innovative thinking and collaboration across the University. In recognition of Scarpa’s lifetime giving of more than $20 million to Villanova, the Law School building will be named John F. Scarpa Hall.

“The entrepreneurial spirit has driven the economic success of our nation, and Villanovans are known for their enterprising aptitude,” said Father Donohue. “This transformational gift will encourage the next generation of Villanova entrepreneurs by expanding their opportunities in the Law School and across the entire University. I cannot think of a more fitting way to honor John than to name the Law School building in honor of his steadfast commitment to cultivating the entrepreneurship mindset in the study of law and other disciplines across our campus.”

 “More than ever, we need innovative leaders to tackle challenging issues with bold solutions,” said John F. Scarpa regarding his vision for the gift. “As a long-time supporter of Villanova and its mission, this new investment will foster an entrepreneurial mindset across campus. I believe in Villanova University and in its Law School and know that—together—we can inspire tomorrow’s leaders who will change the world for the better. If the Law School is ‘where law meets business,’ then the Scarpa Center is ‘where law meets innovation’.”

This $15 million gift—the largest made to date by the Foundation—is in addition to a previous $5 million gift from Scarpa, former Co-Chairman and Founder of American Cellular Network Corporation and co-founder of UNITEL Wireless Communications Systems, and his wife, Jana. That 2015 gift established the John F. Scarpa Center for Law and Entrepreneurship in the School of Law, which serves as a hub for academic and practical discussions about entrepreneurship and law, and hosts dozens of speakers from law and business each year.

The Scarpa Foundation’s new gift will allow the Charles Widger School of Law to build on the success of the Scarpa Center, which exemplifies the School’s “where law meets business” philosophy. The funding will expand the Center’s scope to serve students and scholars across the entire University with a broad portfolio of academic and programmatic offerings that spark innovation and enhance the ability of Villanova students and budding entrepreneurs to make meaningful contributions as citizens of the world. In recognition of this increased emphasis on entrepreneurship, the Center will now be known as the John F. Scarpa Center for Entrepreneurship and Law.

A core element of the Scarpa Foundation’s gift is the creation of an endowed faculty position dedicated to entrepreneurship. Housed in the Charles Widger School of Law, the John F. Scarpa Endowed Professor in Entrepreneurship will be Villanova’s resident expert in entrepreneurship, focusing on the law of entrepreneurship and the development of markets. This individual will pursue scholarship, teach and serve as a teacher-scholar, thought-leader and change-agent in entrepreneurship and innovation.

The Scarpa Foundation’s gift will also enable a comprehensive suite of expanded services and resources for the Law School—as well as greater collaboration across the entire University. These will include the creation of an incubator fund to launch a new annual venture competition for students to compete for seed funding through the Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship Institute; a program for Villanova Law students to provide counsel to other students developing new entrepreneurial endeavors; strategic support for entrepreneurial and experimental approaches in Law School operations and programming; and, scholarship funds for students who show a commitment to entrepreneurship and innovation. 

“I am so pleased that the entire Villanova community will now have the opportunity to benefit from the innovative excellence reflected in the work of the Scarpa Center,” said Mark C. Alexander, The Arthur J. Kania Dean and Professor of Law, Charles Widger School of Law. “The Center’s focus on innovation continues to open doors for entrepreneurs as they become better prepared to navigate the diverse array of challenges faced when launching, operating and growing new ventures. I am thrilled that the sign by our door will reflect Mr. Scarpa’s generosity and belief in Villanova.”

“I am incredibly grateful to the John F. Scarpa Foundation—and both John and Jana Scarpa—for their ongoing support and investment in Villanova,” said Michael J. O’Neill, Senior Vice President for University Advancement. “This gift will leave an indelible mark on our students and faculty, empowering them to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors and scholarship that will positively influence our community and the world.”

A formal dedication for Scarpa Hall is being planned for the spring.


About John F. Scarpa: Mr. Scarpa was an entrepreneur in both the cable television and cellular communication industries. While in the cable television business, in the late 1970’s, he was instrumental in establishing the New Jersey and the Northeast Cable TV Associations.  His groundbreaking work in cellular communications began in the early 1980’s when he founded and served as president and COO of American Cellular Network Corporation. His company became the first publicly traded cellular telephone company in the U.S. Mr. Scarpa went on to co-found Unitel Wireless Communications Systems, where he helped build and manage cellular telephone systems throughout the United States.  He was one of the original members of the national Cellular One Network.

Mr. Scarpa has generously supported Villanova University’s Charles Widger School of Law over many years. In addition to the most recent $15 million gift from the John F. Scarpa Foundation, he also donated $5 million in 2015 to establish John F. Scarpa Center for Law and Entrepreneurship in the Charles Widger School of Law, and $1.5 million in 2004 for the establishment of The John F. Scarpa Chair in Catholic Legal Studies and the annual John F. Scarpa Conference on Law, Politics and Culture. A member of the Law School’s Board of Consultors, he received an honorary doctorate from Villanova Law in 2009.

A dedicated philanthropist, he supports education, healthcare and disadvantaged families through The John F. Scarpa Foundation. Mr. Scarpa is the key benefactor of the Frank and Edith Scarpa Regional Cancer Center and The John F. Scarpa Cancer Research Center at Inspira Health Network (Vineland, N.J.), The John F. Scarpa Technical Education Center (Vineland, N.J.), Edith Favretto Scarpa Academic Building at St. Augustine Preparatory School (Richland N.J.) the John F. Scarpa Academic and Health Sciences Centers at Stockton University (Galloway and Atlantic City, N.J.) and more.

Mr. Scarpa has received numerous public and community service awards: Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation’s Charles Ruch Semper Fidelis Award (2019), Community Foundation of South Jersey’s Legacy of Giving Award (2018), Cape May County Distinguished Citizen Award (2017), Ellis Island Medal of Honor (2010), The National Italian American Foundation’s Special Award for Entrepreneurial Spirit (2008), John and is wife Jana accepted the Tocqueville Distinguished Citizen National Award in Palm Beach, Florida. He is also currently chairperson of the Palm Beach Police and Fire Foundation.

Mr. Scarpa is also the recipient of honorary doctorates from the American University of Rome and will be awarded an honorary doctorate from Stockton University in 2021.

John and Jana Scarpa live in Palm Beach, Fla., and Avalon, N.J.

About Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law: Founded in 1953, Villanova University School of Law provides broad-based legal education that is grounded in academic rigor, practical hands-on training and a foundation in business that prepares graduates for diverse and rewarding legal careers. The Law School, which is accredited by the American Bar Association, offers seven in-house clinics and more than 150 externship opportunities that immerse students in the real-world application of their legal skills. Villanova is home to three Centers of Excellence—the David F. and Constance B. Girard-diCarlo Center for Ethics, Integrity and Compliance; the John F. Scarpa Center for Entrepreneurship and Law; and the Jeffrey S. Moorad Center for the Study of Sports Law—which provide students the opportunity to pursue innovative, interdisciplinary legal fields through study, practical experience and mentorship.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit