1979 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"In just one generation, this son of immigrants went to the highest ranks of business. That's an amazing statement about this country."
Michael Bongiovanni was born in 1921 in Hoboken, New Jersey. His father was an Italian immigrant who worked for the railroads, and his mother worked long hours in a garment shop. Bongiovanni didn't learn English until he started attending school. When he was 12 years old, he worked at a local pharmacy earning $4 a week. The pharmacist encouraged him to apply for a scholarship to Rutgers College of Pharmacy. He entered Rutgers College at age 15. Bongiovanni continued to work at the drugstore while serving as captain of the basketball team and editor of the yearbook. He graduated summa cum laude from Rutgers in 1941.
After college, Bongiovanni signed up with the air cadets and rose to the rank of captain. He was awarded a Presidential Citation for service and bravery and was chosen as the most outstanding navigator in the 12th Air Force, among other honorary titles.
After the war, Bongiovanni joined the Squibb Corporation in Orange, New Jersey, as a sales representative. By 1981, he was president and CEO of worldwide Squibb Specialty Health Products Group, a vice president of Squibb Corporation, and a member of the board of directors.* Deceased