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Joe Tomaino Retires After 50 Years With USF

You can stop cringing when Joe Tomaino's phone number pops up on your Caller ID. He's no longer the biggest bulldog fundraiser USF has ever seen.

After 50 years at USF, Tomaino still shows up at a baseball game in a football shirt.
After 50 years at USF, Tomaino still shows up at a baseball game in a football shirt.

"Collin Sherwin... JOE TOMAINO!! How are you sir??"

I did communications for the USF Bulls Club for five years, but I mostly communicated through email. The phone extension at my desk was mostly used by people already in the building that would call to see if I was in my cubicle so they could come by to chat. If someone needed to get a hold of me, they'd pretty much always call my cell phone.

But on some mornings the little red light would be blinking on my desk whenever I rolled in (normally well after 9am) to the office. Those mornings were a special treat, as they included a voicemail from Joe Tomaino. The friendly, oft-rambling, and sometimes very funny messages were a study in hard work, chaos, and kindness. Despite being twice my age, he was often up before dawn getting ready to tackle another day of meeting, greeting and often eating with prospects to help build the Bulls. As USF Athletics' major gifts officer, he was tasked with finding those folks willing to join the Iron Bulls ($10,000 a year annual contribution) and beyond.

Sometimes I'd need Joey to email me something, which was like asking a kangaroo to gallop. This is understandable for most senior citizens, but I was proud of Joey when he recently told me he's been checking his email more... on what looked like a circa-2005 clamshell Nokia phone.

When I got those messages, they were often related to a gift proposal Joe needed or some information about a potential donor. His job was to find them, meet them, and share the gospel of the Bulls. To describe Joe as a relentless pursuer of major gifts is an understatement: he's more like a one-man Chamber of Commerce for all things green and gold. He harassed, prodded, cajoled, begged, and enthralled every potential new and old donor to USF every single day for 50 years at his alma mater. No one worked harder, longer, or was more driven to grow the size of the tent that covers USF Athletics.

When someone outside the university got a phone call from Tomaino, it meant their wallet had a very good chance of soon being much lighter. Because it meant he wanted you to give back to the school that meant so much to him. And he'd be happy to tell you all the great things that were happening, and all the other amazing people you knew that were already giving back, and you know we're having this event over on campus next week... would you like to stop by the President's Suite at Ray Jay to talk about it? Bring your wife and kids!

Bern's be damned: the most expensive meal in Tampa is a lunch with Joe Tomaino.

Joe retired last week after 50 years at USF in every department and capacity you could imagine, including the last 13 with Athletics. He took an active role in caring for his grandchildren late in life, and seemed to be able to match their energy. He is a living, breathing knowledge base of the history of the institution, and beloved by so many for his tireless passion for the only place he ever worked.

And if you're reading this, there's a good chance you know Joe Tomaino already. Because the man knows literally everyone in Tampa. And if he didn't know you, he knows someone that did know you. And you better hope that person never gave him your contact information, because then he might have treated you to the most expensive free lunch you'll ever eat.

I know I'll see Joey at a Bulls game soon, but now he'll be able to sit down and actually enjoy the game instead of working like a fiend from hours before kickoff until long after the gun.

You deserve it, Tomaino. Congratulations sir. And congratulations to the alumni of USF across the world as your bank accounts are a bit safer.

Your university will miss you Joey, and so will all of us that are privileged to call you a friend.

Note: I think that's about 68% of the City of Tampa.