Rick Finizio Was Not Most Men | Broward College Office of Advancement and Broward College Foundation

Rick Finizio
Was Not Most Men

Americo “Rick” Finizio


Americo “Rick” Finizio, the eighth child of poor Italian immigrants, knew hardship only too well. He grew up in a rough area of South Philadelphia during the Great Depression. He was never able to finish his schooling after losing his mother in the 8th grade, and he went to work to help his family. At 17, he voluntarily joined the U.S. Navy and fought in World War II’s Pacific Theater, where he served on an ammunition ship. In his young life, Rick had seen much pain, suffering and difficulty, which would have crushed the hope out of most men, but Rick Finizio was not most men. He was a man of strong convictions with a positive attitude, a man of great internal strength who looked ahead to a promising future.

He ultimately honed in on education as his journey to success, and that path began with Broward College.

Rick’s passion for education was ignited after he was honorably discharged from the Navy with multiple commendations. Having returned to Philadelphia to marry his sweetheart, Michelina, he took a position with the Philadelphia Police Department, where he patrolled areas around the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University. During those shifts, while protecting the bright futures of so many students, he witnessed the value of education. He decided then and there that he needed to obtain an education, and he vowed to accomplish a high school diploma and go on to earn a higher education degree. His mind burned with a desire to ensure that his children would become educated as well and would be afforded the opportunity to achieve the American dream.

Rick was injured while capturing a murderer in 1970, and he retired from the Philadelphia Police Department and moved to Fort Lauderdale, where he landed a job at the Broward Sheriff’s Office as a court deputy. Not long after their move away from their families, he tragically lost his beloved wife to a car accident. He once again faced adversity and despair, but did not allow that to change his course in life that he planned for his family. Despite being a single father with four children, aged 7 to 17, Rick focused fully on propelling his children forward and decided it was time to get his own education as well. He studied and obtained his General Education Development certificate and then enrolled at Broward College, the school where his educational journey – and that of his children – began.

He juggled working full time, trying to make ends meet to put his children through college and school, along with serving as a community participant. He often brought his younger children to class with him and read voraciously, setting an example for his children and their friends who would visit the home. He inspired all to learn and to reach their full potential through his teachings and motivational lessons that he would share with his children and their friends and families. He was known as “Mr. PMA” – espousing a positive mental attitude for all to learn from and to practice in their lives. His passion for education and his fervor to positively impact the world around him was infectious. His motto was, “What good have I done today to make someone else’s life better? If I have not, then I have wasted a day.” Rick never wasted a day as he tirelessly pressed on toward the dreams that he and his wife had vowed to achieve for their family.

Many years later, Rick married a longtime friend of the family, Mary, who had lost her husband years prior to sickness, and she became his life partner and helped share his goals and partnered in his mission. After retiring as the longtime Broward Sheriff’s Office Chief Court Deputy in 1993, Rick served as senior investigator at his children’s law office, Finizio & Finizio Law Office, where he continued to use his police detective and legal skills in a law office environment. He worked in the legal community and served as a mentor and role model to all until the day he passed away in November of 2010, just shy of the age of 85.

Rick’s children Jamie and Paul, both Juris Doctors, run the successful Fort Lauderdale law firm of Finizio & Finizio. His daughter Marianne, who earned her Master of Business Administration and Masters in Health Administration, served as Vice Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, and his son Michael earned his MBA and Series 7 and most other financial certifications and is the successful Senior Vice President for Morgan Stanley Smith Dean Witter in Los Angeles. Michael, Jamie and Marianne took classes at Broward College, having been dually enrolled while attending St. Thomas Aquinas High School and continuing to take summer courses.

Like their father, Rick’s children are active philanthropists who support a myriad of organizations including their father’s passions, the Symphony of the Americas, National Italian American Foundation, and Toastmasters International. The children have advocated and served as board chairs and members of PACE Center for Girls, Project Medishare for Haiti, Project to Cure Paralysis, Children’s Diagnostic Center and Broward College.

To honor their father and his values, the Finizio family has established a scholarship for veterans attending the Law Enforcement Academy at Broward College. While the G.I. Bill covers basic tuition costs, it does not cover equipment, applications or exams, amounting to a significant financial obstacle for many veterans. The Americo “Rick” Finizio Academy Scholarship for Veterans will provide funding to bridge that gap while celebrating Rick’s focus on education and hailing back to his military and law enforcement background.

Rick Finizio’s life is a lesson in overcoming hardship and turning adversity into prosperity by tapping into the incomparable value of education and committing to family and community. Rick’s children have continued their father’s legacy of prioritizing education and helping others. He lit the torch during his lifetime and his family has kept the light burning in his honor through the scholarship opportunities that will continue their father’s spirit to live on in these worthy students who will be given a chance to succeed and reach their full potential.


Laura Brunner had traditional hopes for her life – hopes for a successful career, a strong marriage and healthy children. Her hopes were becoming a reality when Laura, fresh out of college with a four-year business degree at age 22, landed a job in her field, married her dream man and started a family four years later.