The Legacy of Albert "Al" Mario
On January 18th, the Mario Café was officially unveiled in the Peter J. Cayan Library. The name is in reference to the late Albert B. Mario, a longtime faculty member at SUNY Poly with a legacy that reaches across the entire city of Utica. He was a military veteran. He was a local, community-driven man. He had a huge part in creating the business program here at SUNY Poly, joining the college when it was called Upper Division College. He left a lasting impression on many of his students, faculty, and the community at large.
According to Professor Emeritus Robert Orilio, Albert Mario left “...a beautiful traditional campus at Utica college to come to Upper Division College in an old, run-down mill building on Court Street.” This was when SUNY Poly was known as a graduate and transfer institution, offering classes at different temporary locations all over Utica before the permanent buildings that we all know today came to exist, according to the Observer Dispatch. When Mario arrived at Upper Division College, he saw an opportunity to create something great and new. The business program was the first academic program approved by the school, according to Professor Orilio, and Mario took this program and catapulted it to another level.
Mario established many important programs at SUNY Poly in its earliest days. Those programs include the Advanced Management Program (AMP), Small Business Institute (SBI), the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and the Entrepreneurial Education Resource Center (EERC). The AMP was a program Mario created because Upper Division College did not have a Masters Degree Program. It was essentially considered a mini MBA that companies would send their middle and senior managers to, according to Thomas Reynolds, who is now employed at the Albany SBDC. Reynolds worked for Albert Mario when he was a grad student around the time Mario created the SBDC.
The SBI was a program that connected students of Upper Division College to the Small Business Administration (SBA), which is a government entity that provides support for small businesses all across the country. The SBA would provide funding to the School of Business to create a class where students had opportunities to do real projects in conjunction with small businesses in the Utica area. Thanks to the success of this program, this allowed Mario to create the SBDC in 1985.
The number of accomplishments Albert Mario achieved for SUNY Poly in its earliest days cannot be understated. Mario helped the school gain the recognition it needed to grow and prosper. In addition to this, he was also very involved outside of the classroom. He coordinated the yearly graduation ceremony, secured the keynote speaker, and found a location for the graduation ceremony to take place when SUNY Poly had no official campus.
Albert Mario was, above all else, a community man. Not only was the community he helped create at SUNY Poly incredibly important to him, the Utica community was just as important to him as well. According to Robert Orilio, every Christmas, Albert Mario would invite a couple needy students to his home for Christmas. He would buy olive oil buy the case wholesale and have it delivered directly to the doors of families in East Utica to make sure nobody went without it for the Christmas season. He would even pay for haircuts for some of his more “bushy” students, according to Orilio.
The legacy of Albert Mario is something that the students and faculty of SUNY Poly should never forget. The new Mario Cafe located in the Cayan Library will continue to keep that legacy alive and in the minds of everyone who visits the Cafe.