Robert Lanzillotti 1921-2022

Warrington College of Business mourns the loss of Dean Emeritus Robert Lanzillotti

It is with great sadness that the University of Florida Warrington College of Business shares the loss of Robert “Bob” Lanzillotti, the college’s third dean. Lanzillotti passed on July 8, 2022. He was 101 years old.

“Bob Lanzillotti’s leadership was essential to building the college’s current foundation of excellence,” said Saby Mitra, Warrington College of Business Dean. “His focus on hiring world-class faculty and building the college’s financial stability has been paramount to our success. He will be greatly missed by many Business Gators.”  

Over his century of life, Lanzillotti made a profound impact on the lives of many, from business students at the University of Florida to Americans across the nation.

Lanzillotti began his bachelor’s degree studies at American University before joining the United States Navy in the second year of World War II. While he was allowed to defer his deployment until after he completed his bachelor’s degree in economics at Dartmouth in 1943, Lanzillotti would go on to serve in both the European and Pacific Theatres. Most notably, during his time as an officer in the Navy, Lanzillotti piloted a landing boat onto the Utah Beach shore on D-Day, about two weeks before his 23rd birthday.

Thanks to the GI Bill, Lanzillotti went on to earn two graduate level degrees including his master’s degree in economics from American University and his Ph.D. in the same subject area from the University of California – Berkeley in 1953.

His first job in academia was at Washington State University as an assistant professor. He would later move to a position at the Brookings Institution before becoming a professor and chairman of the department of economics at Michigan State University.

In 1969, Lanzillotti came into the position he would hold for 17 years, dean of what was then the University of Florida College of Business. Originally, Lanzillotti turned down the job, in part because of the way Florida was described to him by his colleagues in the Midwest.

Lanzillotti described his warning, “You would not want to head up that particular college of business because it has been a sleepy kind of intellectual enterprise, and one would have a hard time really doing anything with a university college of business of that stature.”

But Lanzillotti’s get-things-done approach brought major changes that would set the groundwork for Warrington to become among the best business schools, impacting students for years to come. One of his first priorities was increasing the rigor of Warrington’s faculty. Lanzillotti focused on hiring faculty and department chairs that were the top in their respective fields, and in doing so, increasing the reputation of the college as a serious academic institution.

In addition to the faculty, Lanzillotti prioritized partnering with the corporate community in Florida. In consulting with major companies across the state, Lanzillotti was able to leverage his relationships with businesses to generate critical financial support for the college.

Lanzillotti was also a key figure in establishing the UF School of Accounting. In working with accounting alumni Fred Fisher (BSAc ’59) and Al Warrington (BSBA ’58) and then-Fisher School Director John Simmons, Lanzillotti leveraged his networking and fundraising skills to help create the college’s standalone accounting school.

During his time as dean, Lanzillotti continued to serve the nation, this time in a non-military capacity. In 1971, Lanzillotti was appointed to serve on the U.S. Wage & Price Commission Advisory Board following a nation-wide economic downturn. Ultimately, Lanzillotti’s efforts on the Price Commission would bring the inflation rate down by 2%.

Even at 100 years old, Lanzillotti was still active in his work. He served as a member of Warrington’s Dean’s Advisory Council and consulted with companies as requested.

Read more about Lanzillotti’s impact in this story produced in honor of his 100th birthday.