Alumni Impact

Family Increases Gift for Scholarship Named for Hon. Ralph Sansone ’79

A FOUNDATION CREATED IN MEMORY OF HON. RALPH SANSONE ’79, who grew up in a Brooklyn family devoted to public service and died tragically young, is increasing its support of Brooklyn Law School students.

Ralph Sansone was 32 when he died in a small-engine plane crash while returning home from a Memorial Day golf weekend in 1986. He left behind his son, Zach, who was just 3 months old, and his wife, Eva. His parents, Mary and Zach Sansone, formed the Ralph J. Sansone Foundation and created the endowed Ralph J. Sansone Scholarship Fund at the school in 2006. Now, thanks to a generous foundation gift of more than $300,000, the amount of each of the scholarship awards will increase dramatically and the scholarship will be awarded to two students every year rather than just one.

“From my perspective, investing in the youth of our society is a way to give back to the community while keeping my father’s memory alive,” said Zach Sansone, who joined the foundation board alongside his father’s former classmate Sal Aspromonte ’79.

While at Brooklyn Law School, Ralph excelled academically, was listed in Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, and founded the Italian American Law Students Association (IALSA), serving as the first president of an organization that still thrives at the school today.

Aspromonte, who was treasurer, said some of his fondest memories include Ralph. They became best friends in law school, and Ralph influenced him to become interested in politics and social service initiatives to help the poor and disadvantaged.

“In addition to taking our studies seriously—he more than I—we had fun,” Aspromonte said. “Ralph was instrumental in starting a Brooklyn Law School softball tournament, and he got enough people involved so that IALSA was able to have a team. We also ran the monthly disco dances for the social committee.”

After graduation, Ralph’s strong interest in management and union relations prompted him to specialize in labor law. He was appointed as Metropolitan Hospital’s labor relations director, and later assistant counsel for New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation. He was then appointed as first a law judge and then in June 1984, the chief administrative law judge for the New York State Labor Relations Board.

Ralph’s political activities were driven by compassion for those who need the assistance of government the most. He served for many years as a board member and officer of the Congress of Italian Americans Organization (CIAO) and was the founder and first president of the New Era Democrats (NED). His parents and Zach’s grandparents, Zachary Sansone, an attorney, and Mary Sansone, a social worker, who have both passed away, were well known in local political circles. A New York Times obituary called Mary Sansone, who died at 101, a “local folk hero and political godmother,” describing how she was courted by political candidates, including New York City mayors, for her grassroots wisdom.

Zach said being involved in his grandparents’ work shaped who he is. “They taught the importance of selflessness, perseverance, hard work, and taking an ethical approach to life,” he said. “Philanthropy is super important to me, and it’s wonderful to be able to continue their work by investing in education at Brooklyn Law School, which will help shape future careers and hopefully instill some of the great characteristics of my father in others.”

framed photo of Ralph Sansone
The memory of Hon. Ralph Sansone ’79 and his commitment to helping those in need lives on at Brooklyn Law School.
Zach Sansone with his grandparents
L–R: Zach Sansone with his grandparents, Zach and Mary Sansone, at a 2009 event for the Ralph J. Sansone Foundation, whose beneficiaries include Brooklyn Law School students, through a scholarship program.