By Cathy SengelFresh out of Harvard Business School, Louis “Lou” D’Amico ’00 Hon. was the first teacher Edward Triangolo ’80 Hon. and Morris Gaebe ’98 Hon. hired, in 1947. From instructor and member of “the kitchen cabinet” to Legacy Trustee, after 62 years D’Amico remains an ambassador for all that JWU represents.“I often thought if Lou cut his finger it would bleed J&W blue,” says Chairman of the Board John Yena ’06 Hon. “From Lou we got personal attention that went beyond business obligations to a dedication and love.” D’Amico first met Morris Gaebe and Edward Triangolo at a lunch counter at 40 Fountain Street. The two strangers had just bought Johnson & Wales Business School housed upstairs, and asked about his plans. Just out of Harvard after duty in the U.S. Navy, D’Amico was about to tell his young, widowed mother that all job offers were far from home.He told them he faulted Harvard’s message to graduates: “‘Be a big CEO or we’ve lost you.’ I was a poor kid from Providence, and I did not think the future of America would be with the large corporations, but in small business.” Small business management was a course he’d loved there.“Come teach that,” Gaebe offered. “We’re as small as you get.”D’Amico was reluctant, but intrigued. “Those two fellas spoke in a sense that I liked to hear … students are going to come first and be trained to get good jobs.”The duo pressed for a five-year commitment but settled for three. Love of the educational enterprise kept D’Amico tied long beyond. Positive, jovial and enthusiastic, “as a teacher, he was so noisy we had to move his classroom downstairs,” now Chancellor Emeritus Gaebe recalls.In 1951 D’Amico moved on to Duro Finishing LLC, in Fall River, Mass. As Johnson & Wales went from a business school to a junior college, “Mose [Gaebe] operated from ‘the kitchen cabinet,’” D’Amico among them. He recalls J&W’s first acquisition, Plantations Hall, and the many “recycled properties” that followed. In 1973 D’Amico became an official trustee of a more complex institution launching hospitality and culinary programs. While chief financial officer at Duro, he was told by a downcast worker that the man’s son, a gifted musician, wanted to do nothing but cook. “Anybody can be a cook.”Cooks will one day be like rock stars, D’Amico assured him, suggesting culinary classes at J&W. The education fueled an icon. “Emeril is a great guy, but when he first came to J&W, he didn’t talk,” says D’Amico’s wife, Mary. “He changed from introvert to ‘Bam!’” D’Amico’s opinions were valued. “Lou had a million ideas and we used a lot of them,” says Gaebe. “He was not afraid of change.”Yena praises D’Amico’s contributions in the years that followed. As chair of the first academic committee, D’Amico brought a teacher’s perspective. He chaired the first audit committee creating still-standing charters. “Lou had a good nose for finance and real estate and a barometer tuned into what was right to do.”Involved in the real business of education, D’Amico was “always looking out for the little guy,” and mentoring small businesses.“Being at Johnson & Wales is like going to a movie,” D’Amico says. “It’s moving so fast you better keep your eye on the screen.” His favorite scenes play out at graduation.He has gone to every commencement since 1947, often with wife, Mary, by his side, Yena notes. Once, trustees and their wives participated jointly in university activities. Mary was a value added to Lou’s service.D’Amico is amazed at the institution built by the two boys at the lunch counter. “I don’t think it could be duplicated again,” he says.Trustees are now limited to nine-year terms. There will never be another to serve as long or with as much pride and enthusiasm.“More than any other trustee, Lou had a working knowledge of how a university operates,” Yena says. “He touched students. His service was extraordinary.”top: Mary and Lou D’Amico socializing at a Johnson & Wales event in the 1950s and (below) in 2006.