Financial Adviser’s Efficiency, Steady Hand Guide MDA

Board member Joseph DiMartino oversees investments, financial growth in pursuit of cures

by Alyssa Quintero on July 1, 2007 - 10:24am

QUEST Vol. 14, No. 4

For 21 years, Joseph S. DiMartino has served on MDA’s Board of Directors, putting his business and investment skills to work for the Association and the families it serves. Under his watchful eye, DiMartino has helped ensure MDA’s solid financial foundation as it advances its lifesaving mission to find better treatments and cures for neuromuscular diseases.

After joining MDA’s Board in 1986, DiMartino served as treasurer until 1991, subsequently served on the finance and investment committees, and currently is chairman of the Board’s Investment Committee, leading the charge in managing MDA’s funds and ensuring the continued growth of the Association’s investments.

Such prudent management helps provide a crucial financial safety net for MDA’s research, services and information programs.

“He’s direct, and he’s efficient,” said fellow Board member Jeanne Russell, who works with DiMartino on the Investment Committee. “He’s reserved and quiet, but he works hard for MDA. He’s a terribly nice guy.”

Investing in the future

The son of Italian immigrants, DiMartino grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and didn’t speak English until the first grade. With hard work, he graduated in 1965 from Manhattan College in Riverdale, N.Y., with a Bachelor of Science in economics.

“I thought economics was a good foundation for most things,” he said. “The interesting thing is that I wasn’t in the business school. I was in the arts school, so I had a broad base with a liberal arts background and an economics degree.”

After college, DiMartino remained in New York City, taking a job with Dun & Bradstreet, a global leader in providing companies with business information. His big break came in 1966 when he was hired by the Chase Manhattan Bank, where he worked in the Investment and Trust Department. In the evenings, DiMartino attended New York University’s Graduate School of Business.

DiMartino became an investment bank officer at age 24 and later managed pension funds for the bank. He was named a Chase second vice president.

In 1971, he joined the Dreyfus Corp., one of the nation’s leading mutual fund companies, as a portfolio manager. In 1982, at 39, DiMartino was named president, chief operating officer and director of the Dreyfus Corp.

After DiMartino stepped down as president in 1994, he was elected chairman of the Board of the Dreyfus Family of Mutual Funds the next year. Now, with more than 40 years of experience, he represents the mutual funds’ shareholders and oversees the directors for each mutual fund board. Dreyfus has about 190 mutual funds and a million shareholders, with $200 billion under management.

“I started on Wall Street almost by accident, but it’s like doing anything that you love,” said DiMartino, who keeps an office at the Dreyfus headquarters in Manhattan. “What I like most is that it’s all quantitative, and I enjoy the challenge.

“You really get to measure yourself every day because you get your report card at the end of the day when the [stock] market closes.”

DiMartino also serves as a director for CBIZ (since 1997), The Newark Group (since 2000) and Sunair Services (since 2005).

MDA forever

DiMartino, 63, takes his role as chief financial adviser to MDA extremely seriously. He has to carefully manage MDA’s reserve funds while still making them grow.

“I’ve been with MDA forever,” said DiMartino, who lives in Brookside, N.J., with his wife, Linda. “But I continue [to serve on the Board] because I love it, and I believe in the work that’s being done.

“I feel like I get more out of it than I give, and it’s great to be part of a wonderful, well-run organization.”

DiMartino first learned about MDA through his longtime friend, late MDA Board member Louis Benzak. They worked together at Chase Manhattan Bank while Benzak was MDA’s treasurer.

While he knew about Jerry Lewis and the MDA Telethon, DiMartino admits that he never fully “understood or appreciated the wonderful work MDA does in services and research” until joining the Board.

“Outside of MDA, I don’t think people realize the extent of what MDA does,” he said. “The scientific and medical work is breathtaking, but the level of health care services is remarkable. MDA does so much for its families.”

When asked what he enjoys most about serving on the Board, DiMartino responded, “Aside from the work, it’s the people.

“My fellow Board members have talents in so many different areas, and they’ve all accomplished so much, whether it’s in fund raising, business, broadcasting or medicine. I enjoy learning from them.”

DiMartino also credits MDA’s staff for tireless dedication to the families served by the Association.

“You clearly see the love that they have for the work of the Association, and that’s what inspires us, encourages us as directors. Their love of the work and MDA drives them, and that gives us a shot in the arm.”

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