As Dr. Philip X. Masciantonio, C’50, D’83, talks about his life, it is obvious that he loves many things – his church, his family, sports and, of course, spaghetti! But one thing stands out – his beloved alma mater, Saint Vincent College.
Growing up in a traditional Italian Catholic family with three siblings in the small Westmoreland County town of Jeannette, one of his earliest memories is his hard working parents. His father, Frank, was a laborer in the local glass factory and his mother, Mary (Cima), was always at home taking care of the family – and making spaghetti.
“We didn’t even think about going to college,” he noted. “I thought I was going to work in the glass factory, too.” But, then the late Fr. Edmund Cuneo, O.S.B. from Saint Vincent entered the picture. “Fr Edmund used to come to Jeannette to say Mass at Ascension Church. He would talk about Saint Vincent and how they were going to be celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding in 1946.”
“Tuition was only about $150 in those days but even that was out of our range,” he admitted. “It turned out that I was offered a full scholarship to play football for Saint Vincent by first-year coach Bap Manzini who was re-starting the team after World War II.”
Masciantonio played football and studied chemistry and did well in both. He greatly enjoyed all of his courses at Saint Vincent, especially those taught by chemistry chair Dr. Daniel Nolan, and a host of Benedictines including Fr. Bertin Emling, Fr. Mark Kistner, Fr. Edmund Cuneo, Fr. Fintan Shoniker, Fr. Owen Roth, Fr. Paulinus Selle, Fr. Armand-Jean Baldwin, Fr. Bernard Brinker, and Frs. Roland and Clement Heid. “Fr. Edmund in particular was always interested in how I was doing,” he recalled. “But all of them had continuous concern to make sure I got my studies done and for my well-being. They taught me that you had to lead a good life and pray daily – and not be afraid to take on challenges to do a good job.”
After graduating from Saint Vincent with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry with honors, he went to work in a testing laboratory before moving to National Roll and Foundry and later the Pittsburgh Coke and Chemical Company while also studying toward a master of science degree in organic chemistry at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University). He continued his studies at Carnegie Tech and earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry before joining U.S. Steel at their laboratory research center where he worked in coke and coal chemicals development. He enjoyed a series of promotions before being named vice president of environmental affairs, an important leadership position in national and international environmental affairs including the International Iron and Steel Institute, International Chamber of Commerce Environmental Bureau and various national committees related to the environment.
Throughout his career, he depended on the support of his family. He and his late wife, Dolores “Dee”, were married just after he graduated from Saint Vincent. They had five children – Michael, Daniel, Judy, Francis and Christopher. Both Michael and Christopher graduated from Saint Vincent. Francis’s son, Philip, played varsity basketball and football and graduated from Saint Vincent in 2010 with a bachelor of arts degree in communication. Christopher’s daughter, Jillian, is currently a senior biology major at Saint Vincent who plans to graduate in May 2014.
Dee, who died in 2011, enjoyed training, showing and breeding horses and was the owner and operator of Briarfield Equestrian Center in Penn Township, a 100-acre farm and boarding stable where he still lives near to Judy and Christopher’s families who continue to operate the center and share the work. Masciantonio salvaged some bricks from the remains of the Old Chapel after the fire at Saint Vincent in 1963 and incorporated them into the horse stables, to physically and symbolically connect his home to SVC forever.
While his wife’s passion was horses, his was always sports – playing, coaching and watching. In addition to playing football and other sports in college, Masciantonio was a volunteer coach of midget basketball and football teams in Jeannette. An avid Pirates and Steelers fan, he also attends all of the Saint Vincent Bearcat football home games. He was among the alumni leaders who helped to get the program restarted in 2007 after a hiatus of 45 years.
A past president of the Saint Vincent Alumni Council, he has served on virtually every committee over the years and continues to be an active participant in alumni events and activities. He describes Saint Vincent as “his second home” and “a place you could always count on, a place I have always been proud to be associated with.” He was honored by Saint Vincent with an honorary doctor of science degree, an alumni of distinction award and a letterman of distinction hall of fame award.
Because of his lifelong attachment to Saint Vincent, Masciantonio has always been motivated to give back financially. He has been a consistent and generous donor as a member of the Heritage Society. It also led him to volunteer to chair the annual fundraising campaign for the Heritage Society where he will communicate his encouragement to other alumni and ask them to consider what Saint Vincent has meant in their lives.
He is a faithful member of Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Jeannette where he has been active on numerous church committees and organizations including the Holy Name Society and the Knights of Columbus.
Still active and in excellent health, he will celebrate his birthday in March and looks forward to a long life and many more years with his families in Jeannette and at Saint Vincent.