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The Italian American Museum of Los Angeles is pleased to announce a generous gift from the

Carole and Sebastiano Sterpa Foundation.

Carole and Sebastiano have joined the Museum's
elite cadre of donors known as the Founding Families.

In preparation for the Museum's opening, the IAMLA's Founding Family designation
was created to recognize individuals and families whose dedication, generosity,
and achievements make them ripe for distinction.
The Sterpa Family Story
When Giuseppe Sterpa saw Clementina Fiore for the first time, he knew that the beautiful woman, widely admired for her grace, intelligence, and religious devotion, would one day be his wife. Giuseppe's instinct proved prophetic. In 1924, the couple married in their native Veiano, a medieval village in the province of Viterbo, located 69 kilometers north of Rome. Giuseppe and Clementina were soon blessed with three sons: Salvatore, Egidio, and Sebastiano.

(Above: Giuseppe and Clementina Sterpa)
Because of Giuseppe's work with the Corpo Forestale dello Stato, or State Forestry Corps, the family moved frequently, and as children, the Sterpa boys experienced life in various regions of Italy, such as Campania and Basilicata. In the early 1940's, as his sons approached high school, Giuseppe and the family returned to Rome, where the children could attend one of the city's many academically rigorous schools.


S
ebastiano, who was nicknamed "Seb," elected to enroll in the Liceo Giulio Cesare, a school that specialized in classical studies and the humanities.

Seb, who had an innate interest in languages, took eight years of Latin, five years of Ancient Greek and French, and earned high marks in philosophy and history.




Sebastiano "Seb" Sterpa as a young man
It was the height of World War II, and while Veiano was a modest village of only 2,000 residents, it would not emerge unscathed. In response to reports that Nazis had taken refuge in Veiano, an intense aerial bombing campaign led to the death of 450 of Veiano’s residents; among them were five members of the Sterpa family, including Seb's paternal grandfather, two uncles, and three cousins. Seb, himself, narrowly escaped death by hiding in a drainage ditch as Allied planes decimated German tanks traveling on the Cassia highway.

Veiano, (Viterbo) Italy today.
Following the war, Giuseppe and Clementina watched with great pride as each of their children left an imprint on the communities in which they lived. Salvatore became an executive vice-president for Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, or Cariplo, a Milan-based savings bank. By 1982, the bank had assets exceeding L26 billion, it operated over 440 branches, and held approximately 30% of the country's savings. During his tenure, Salvatore facilitated loans for numerous development and agricultural projects synonymous with modern Italy.
Throughout his childhood, Egidio spent his evenings devouring books, often until dawn, and by age 17, had become a prolific writer. His literary talent captured the attention of Renato Angiolillo, who founded one of Italy's most popular newspapers, Il Tempo, in 1944. Angiolillo promptly offered Egidio a position at the paper, and at the young age of 24, Egidio had become Il Tempo's Editor-in-Chief.

Right: Renato Angiolillo
Five years later, Egidio accepted the directorship of Il Corriere Lombardo in Milan, where he met Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini. The men became steadfast friends. Each year at Christmastime, Archbishop Montini and Egidio organized a benefit for the poor of Milan, a tradition that continues today.

In 1963, Archbishop Montini become
Paul IV, the 262nd Pope of the Catholic Church. Egidio chronicled his friend's legacy in Paolo VI: Un Papa Diverso, (Paul the VI: A Different Pope), which included helping save an estimated 4,000 Italian Jews from deportation during World War II.

Above: Pope Paul IV with U.S. President John F. Kennedy
In the early 1970's, Egidio wrote for
Il Corriere della Sera, one of the Italy's largest newspapers, before co-founding
Il Giornale, which today remains among the country's most respected newspapers.

For Egidio, the transition between journalism and politics was natural; he was soon elected to the City Council of Milan, and in 1979, became deputato, or congressman for the Partito Liberale Italiano (Italian Libertarian Party).

Serving in five legislatures, twice as a senator and three times as a congressman, Egidio ascended to the Italian Parliament's third highest ranking member, before retiring in 2009 at the age of 80.

Egidio Sterpa with one of his later books,
Qualcosa di Liberale
After graduating from the Liceo Giulio Cesare, Seb studied law in Rome, and wrote briefly for Il Tempo. Seb's dream, however, was to work in the United States, develop mastery of the English language, and return to Italy with the capital needed to establish a business. In 1954, Seb purchased a ticket on the ill-fated SS Andrea Doria (which sank at sea two years later), and after arriving in New York, traveled west to Los Angeles. Seb was accepted to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where he studied business administration. To support himself, Seb worked as a U.S. correspondent for several Italian publications.
Among his most memorable assignments was an interview with Anna Magnani for the film The Rose Tattoo in 1955. Seb also taught Italian at the Berlitz School, and waited tables at an Italian restaurant in Hollywood. One evening, one of Seb's regular customers inquired why Seb remained a waiter given his education and obvious potential. The man, who was an industrial real estate broker, suggested Seb pursue a career in real estate.

"Real estate?" Seb asked innocently, "What's that?" The customer directed Seb to the Lumbleau Real Estate School in Los Angeles, and after two months, Seb had passed the exam.

Seb interviews Miss Italia in 1954
In search of broker with whom to affiliate, Seb approached several large firms, all of which turned him away, citing Seb's thick accent and what they described as his less-than-perfect command of the English language. However, one Burbank firm, Rancho Park Realty, which was headed by Wesley Ream, offered Seb a position.
Ream, a genial veteran broker, shared his vast knowledge of real estate with Seb and quickly became his mentor. To solicit listings, Seb knocked on thousands of doors, hour after hour, and while countless doors were slammed in his face, many people invited him into their homes for dinner or coffee, even if they did not want to sell their property.

In the 1950's, the Southern California cities of Glendale and Burbank were home to large Italian communities, but few agents catered to the community's needs. After recognizing this void, Seb visited the post office, where he purchased 300 pre-paid, stamped postcards. He then sat at his desk with a Burbank city directory, and scoured it, page-by-page, line-by-line, in search of residents with Italian surnames.

Seb during his early career
Each time he located an Italian-sounding name, he sent the individual a postcard to which he attached his photograph, and hand-wrote a few Italian sayings and the following message: "My name is Seb Sterpa, and I am your Italian real estate agent."
His plan worked; and the phones began to ring.
After eight months at Rancho Park Realty, Seb moved to a larger company, PWC Realty. In his first six months at the firm, Seb listed 48 pieces of property. Within a year, Seb broke the company's sale records and became one of the firm's top producers.

The year 1959 was an important one for Seb; he became a
United States Citizen and obtained his real estate broker's license. Three years later, and with less than $5,000, he opened his own office, Sterpa Realty Inc., pictured above, a full service real estate firm.
He founded a second residential sales office in 1963, and an investment and property management office in 1966. In his peak year, 1978, Seb boasted $89 million in sales; four years later, he was named California Realtor of the Year. What began as a humble company eventually blossomed to eighteen offices, with over 300 salespeople, before Merrill Lynch acquired it in 1985. During this era, Seb also became one of the first real estate brokers in California to syndicate property, an arrangement in which a group of investors pool their capital to invest as a whole in real estate projects. Seb's success continued; he established firms in complementary industries, such as escrow, mortgage and management. He co-founded the California Citizens Bank, Lincoln Title, Founder Title of Hawaii, and Founders Title Group of California.





Seb's integrity and success in business made him a sought-after leader in real estate and political circles. In 1982, Seb assumed the
presidency of the 130,000-member California Association of Realtors, a century-old advocacy organization. Seb's leadership benefitted the organization greatly, and six years later, the National Association of Realtors named Seb vice-president.
He played an active role in Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign and supported the construction of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. In 1982, California Governor George Deukmejian appointed Seb Chairman of the Board of Directors of the California Housing Finance Agency, an organization that supports renters and homebuyers by offering financing and programs to provide safe and affordable housing for low to moderate income Californians. The appointment was particularly important to Seb, who recognized how inflation and rising interest rates made achieving the American Dream - purchasing a home - impossible for many families. Seb had previously served on the California Real Estate Commission, as Secretary of the California Housing Coalition, and was a member of the State of California Blue Ribbon Task Force.





O
ne of his proudest achievements is the passage of California State Assembly Bill 3504, a proposed law that became California Proposition 5, or the First-Time Home Buyers Bond Act of 1982. The law, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters, facilitated the home loan process for qualified, first-time buyers.

Seb with California Governor Jerry Brown
One of the most important moments in Seb's life transpired not in a board room, however, but on the golf course. In 1985, at the Oakmont Country Club in Glendale, California, Seb was returning to the locker room in his golf cart when the passenger of another cart, a precocious, six-year-old girl, smiled and waved at him. Seb stopped the cart to acknowledge the little girl, whose name, he learned, was Tara.
It was then that Seb met Tara's mother, Carol Sue Persinger, whose golden hair and exquisite green-gray eyes captivated him. They were married on July 29, 1978, and together, have five children, fourteen grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. Despite their busy lives, the Sterpa family prioritizes spending time together, and recently, 35 members of the family explored the Alaskan glacial wonderland on a cruise.

Above: Carole and Seb Sterpa with President Bush
Seb's acumen in business was matched only by his civic leadership. Since 1963, Seb has played a leadership role in dozens of charitable and community organizations: the Boy Scouts of America, YMCA, United Way, Burbank Chamber of Commerce, Burbank Redevelopment Committee, Verdugo Hills Heart Association, Providence St. Joseph Medical Center, and Burbank Community Hospital.
In 1975, Seb, working with Fr. Luigi Donanzan, the former pastor of St. Peter's Italian Church and tireless promoter of Italian culture in Los Angeles, purchased the land on which the Villa Scalabrini Retirement Center in Sun Valley was built. Seb, along with community luminaries such as businessman-geophysicist Henry Salvatori, industrialist Ray Polverini, builder Frank Arciero, philanthropist Edward DiLoreto, real estate mogul Michael Monteleone, and entertainer Frank Sinatra, launched a fundraising campaign that breathed life into the center, which is among the nation's preeminent retirement communities today.

Seb presents Fr. Donanzan with a check to support the creation of Villa Scalabrini

Above: Seb, standing sixth from left, with the co-founders of Villa Scalabrini

S
eb also served as the first chairman of the Italy America Chamber of Commerce West, an entity created to foster business and trade opportunities between Italy and the United States. Seb's philanthropy extended to many other communities in need: in 1976, he co-founded Bridge Away Across, a drug rehabilitation facility for youth. Between 1976 and 1978, Seb was the director of the International Institute of Los Angeles, an organization established in 1914 to assist recently arrived immigrants as they integrate into their new homes; the organization provides child care, senior, legal and refugee services as well as nutritional counseling to individuals in need across Southern California. For his charitable work in the Italian community and years of service to the Italian Republic, he was honored with the distinction of Commendatore, and Cavaliere Ufficiale, two of Italy's five orders of knighthood. In 1988, the region of Puglia honored Seb for his excellence in business.
Seb currently serves as Chairman of the Board of National Community Renaissance (National CORE), one of the nation's largest non-profit, affordable housing organizations. He is also a board member of the Diversified Pacific Fund, an investment fund with properties valued at over $100 million. Between 1982 and 2003, Seb was the director SunAmerica Mutual Funds, which manages approximately $69 billion in assets across a family of twenty mutual funds, as well as the AIG Family of Mutual Funds and the Countrywide Family of Mutual Funds.

Seb and Clementina Sterpa meet
Pope John Paul II
Seb and Carole reside in Montecito, California. The couple's hobbies include golf, travel, and spending time with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Seb also produces over 550 tons of highly coveted wine grapes at his vineyard, John Sebastiano, which is located on an expansive ranch in Buellton, just north of Santa Barbara.

Below: Seb and his partners at the winery's inauguration.
Above: Seb and Carole Sterpa, in second row, with their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

To make a contribution in honor of the Sterpa Family,
please click here
.

If you would like to learn more about the Founding Families program,
or if you are interested in becoming a Founding Family,
please contact the IAMLA.

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