It was the first time he had lived away from home. Frank Malpigli packed a suitcase filled with clothes, a toothbrush and soccer ball and headed off to college.
The Long Island native knew little about Morrisville State College, the place in Central New York where he would spend the next two years amassing a lifetime of unforgettable memories.
He kept in touch with former classmates after graduation through e-mail correspondence and sporadic hometown visits, but Malpigli never really tucked his college memories away. His cache of keepsakes later sent him on a nostalgic mission to reunite them all again.
Collecting names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, he created a database to track his former soccer buddies and former soccer coach then invited them to meet at their alma mater for Mustang (Alumni) Weekend.
The small group that gathered for the first time eight years ago bridged thousands of miles and more than 20 years.
Since then, the reunion has elicited an increasing response, fielding up to 25 athletes for the annual event which promises a weekend of fun and the chance to catch up on each other's lives.
Malpigli hadn't missed a reunion since the group started gathering, until this year when a family commitment prevented him from attending.
A member of the Class of '78, his absence could not go unnoticed.
Malpigli was awarded the Morrisville State College Distinguished Alumni Award during Mustang Weekend. Former soccer teammates proudly accepted the honor in his absence.
The award recognizes a philanthropic leader for generosity, dedication and devotion to Morrisville State College.
“I am honored to be chosen. What I did over the years was for the benefit of all of us,” a humble Malpigli said referring to fellow alumni.
A business administration graduate, Malpigli's spirit and devotion still pours into his alma mater.
It's inherent in his continued commitment to the college, raising funds for the Athletic Department to replace plaques for Wall of Fame inductees, encouraging fellow alumni to return and support the college, and promoting the college's soccer and athletics program.
“Frank is unique in his ability to lead,” said Art Lemery, Malpigli's former soccer coach who guided the team through a period of unprecedented athletic achievement during the 1970s and 1980s and also attends the annual get-together. “He gives so much time and effort to Morrisville State College.”
“After 30 years, Frank is still encouraging others to come back to Morrisville,” Doug Ludwig, Class of '78 said. “He even gathered former soccer players to watch the 1980 soccer team's induction into the college's Hall of Fame.”
“I look forward to this yearly get-together” (Mustang Weekend), Stephen Naranjo, Class of '78, who lives in Bethpage, N.Y., said. “It never would have happened without Frank.”
Malpigli shares the spotlight in college memoirs as a member of the soccer team that went to the National Championship in Miami, Florida where they finished third in the nation under Coach Lemery.
“To this day, I don't know anyone who cares more about and who has done more to promote the legacy and traditions of Morrisville soccer than Frank,” Robert Harty, Class of '78 said.
Harty and Malpigli, who grew up in the same town, make the annual trek from Long Island to Morrisville State College together every year with prized clams for the group's annual barbecue.
Though so much has changed—Malpigli's soccer days are long over and the campus that taught him so much about life and himself has been transformed in so many ways, returning to Morrisville State College still feels like home to him.
“You can do anything you want to the buildings. It is still our Morrisville,” Harty said.
Every year when the former teammates gather to reminisce, Mustang Weekend holds that emotional “winning” feeling for them all over again, but not from taking top spot among competitors anymore— from reconnecting with old friends and netting new memories.
Malpigli is already looking forward to next year's reunion and the group's traditional barbecue at Coach Lemery's house, golfing at Seven Oaks, breakfast at Quack's Diner in Bouckville, meeting at the local tavern and of course, catching a Mustang soccer game.
His Distinguished Alumni plaque shares a revered spot on a wall at home amid photos of his children and their framed accolades, serving as a continuous reminder of some of the greatest moments of his life.
“It was important to me that past friends be reacquainted,” Malpigli said. “The years go by too fast.”
Malpigli is a successful businessman, currently co-owning and operating Malpigli & Salvaggio Insurance Agency, Inc. in Islip Terrace, New York. After he graduated from Morrisville State College, he attended Hofstra University where he earned a bachelor degree in business administration.
In his community, he is active through his local YMCA, raising funds to send underprivileged children to camp, supports his local fire company with various activities and is active with the Chamber of Commerce. He also donates food to a local church throughout the year and adopts a family for the holidays.
He and his wife, Carol, high school sweethearts, have been married for 30 years and have two children, Frank, an attorney and Katie, a music teacher.
Fellow alumni who would like to contact Malpigli can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 516-639-5304.