DU Alumni

Sloan fellowship brought 1947 alum to DU

“My growth as an individual and professor was a result, in many ways, of the time I spent at DU,” says John Capozzola, shown here in 1965. Photo courtesy of John Capozzola

In 1942, John Capozzola passed up acceptances to the University of Chicago Law School, the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, a joint Tufts-Harvard program and the Fletcher School of International Law to attend DU as an Alfred P. Sloan fellow.

It was one of the best decisions he ever made, says Capozzola, a retired professor emeritus at New York University (NYU).

And it all happened because his faculty adviser at Pennsylvania State University insisted that Capozzola interview in Philadelphia for the Sloan Fellowship. That adviser, John Ferguson, also persuaded Capozzola to choose DU over the more prestigious programs.

“Ferguson changed my life, because had I rejected his wise counsel, I would have missed out on a superb education at DU,” Capozzola says. DU also provided lifelong friendships and connections that ultimately led to his job as a professor at NYU.

The Sloan Fellowship was in its fifth year when 21-year-old Capozzola arrived as one of 10 fellows at DU. A Denver Post article published June 14, 1942, says the group, selected from several hundred applicants, was chosen based on “qualities of leadership and congeniality, along with high academic requirements in the field of political science, economics, accounting and statistics.”

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation was established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then-president and chief executive officer of General Motors, to recognize the achievements of outstanding young scholars in science, mathematics, economics and computer science. The foundation, based in New York City, no longer has a fellowship program at DU. A spokeswoman for the organization said she did not have any information as to when the program ended at DU.

Capozzola, now 91, has vivid memories of his time at DU. He says the Sloan program was exceptional because it encompassed the practice as well as the theory of government in action.

“My growth as an individual and professor was a result, in many ways, of the time I spent at DU,” says Capozzola, who now lives in Madison, N.J.

Capozzola was a Sloan fellow twice at DU. His first fellowship was interrupted in October 1942, when he was drafted for service in the Army Air Force during World War II. He initially was assigned to chemical warfare in Gadsten, Ala. In 1943, he was sent overseas on an unescorted zig-zag voyage to England. His squadron saw action in the Tunisian, Sicilian, Naples-Toggia, Rome-Arno, Southern France and Central European campaigns during the war.

Returning to America, Capozzola briefly studied law at the University of Pennsylvania, where he met a young nurse, Shirley. The couple married and had three children. They were married for 62 years, until Shirley died in 2007.

When Capozzola returned to Denver in 1945, he resumed his studies through the Sloan program. He graduated in 1947 with a master’s degree in business management and went on to earn a PhD at Penn State.

Capozzola was president of Ess-Cee Sportswear Corp. in 1964 when Troy Westmeyer, an NYU professor and friend from DU, contacted him about a temporary vacancy as a graduate instructor at the university. Capozzola got the job and was appointed a full professor by 1973. His specialty was public sector labor relations.

“They would not have known I existed if wasn’t for Westmeyer,” he says.

In 1978, Capozzola received the Great Teacher Award from NYU. In 1991, the year he retired, Capozzola was awarded the title of professor emeritus at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service. After retiring, he taught for five more years as an adjunct professor.

“Everything I’ve achieved, even at NYU, it started at DU with the Sloan Fellowship,” he says.


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