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Frank Carano hands a guest a replica of the image that crowns the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. “It shows the moment when God touched man and gave him life,” he explains of the fingers that incline toward each other in Michelangelo’s masterpiece La Creazione. “I give this to you.”
This present should come as no surprise because Mr. Carano is known as a thoughtful and generous man. But in a harried world that runs at a rapid pace his graceful gesture is moving. In his lifetime, over 90 years so far, Mr. Carano has given much to the legal community, to Philadelphia, to the country of Italy, and now to the University of Pennsylvania Law School. In the Fall of 2001 Mr. Carano made a gift of $2 million to the Law School to establish The Frank Carano Professorship of Law.
“The Dean told me that the mark of a good school is its faculty, and a new professorship would help the teaching at Penn,” he offers as an explanation for his generosity. “I attribute whatever success I had to my stint at the Law School. Being a Penn graduate was significant. Because of my education I had whatever success I had. To whom better can I leave it other than this nice school?” he smiles modestly.
In the Roaring Twenties, a friend of Frank Carano’s parents regularly frequented their home in the Italiandominated Philadelphia neighborhood of Overbrook. Adrian Bonnelly, an immigration lawyer, had a fondness for Mrs. Carano’s Italian cooking. Over the dining room table he would encourage young Frank to apply to the University of Pennsylvania and later attend the Law School to make a career for himself.
This might have been hard for the young man to imagine. His parents were born in Italy, in Rome and Abruzzi to be exact, and immigrated to Philadelphia around 1907. Frank was born shortly thereafter. Though a cabinetmaker in Italy, his father opened a “Superette” grocery store where Frank worked in his youth. At the time, as he remembers it, to get around Overbrook one needed a horse or a bicycle, and automobiles were rarely seen, much less owned.