June 20, 2023

When Hurricane Alicia hit Galveston in 1983, Laura ’86 and Johnny Campanello ’86 were left picking up scraps of their life. Both only 19 at the time, the Campanellos lost their home and numerous possessions in the storm. But they didn’t have to face the challenge alone. Laura’s parents quickly stepped in to help the couple find a new home in Aggieland. During their time at Texas A&M University, they made lifelong friends, had unforgettable experiences, and learned skills and lessons they still use today. Now, they are giving back to honor the people who helped them from the very beginning.

A Bright Beginning

Laura and Johnny had similar childhoods in many ways. Both were adopted: Laura was raised in Fort Worth while Johnny was the third of four adopted children in his family raised in Galveston. Both of their families prioritized a good work ethic, and Laura and Johnny both began helping their families with their businesses from a young age—Laura with her dad’s retail stores, while Johnny was only 8 when he began helping with his dad’s shrimping business.

“We asked ourselves, ‘How do we continue their legacy?’”
- Laura Campanello '86

“My father worked all the time, so it was a big deal for both of my parents to come to my graduation,” Johnny said. “As for Laura’s parents, I promised them I would make sure she earned a degree, and even though I was a first-generation college student, I made good on that promise.”

Giving Come Rain or Shine

After graduating, Laura worked for Corrigan’s Jewelers until 1988, when she chose to stay home and raise their children. Johnny began his career at Tandy Corp. in the accounting and finance department, remaining with the company until 1993. After he earned his MBA from Texas Christian University, a financial advisor the couple had worked with during their time at Texas A&M encouraged Johnny to pursue a career helping others manage their money.

“I’ve had a successful career as a financial advisor, even in my current position at Merrill Lynch, because of a class at Texas A&M,” Johnny noted. “Even though I was an accounting major, when I took a personal finance class in college, it clicked with me. When I started as a financial advisor, I always remembered the connection to that class.”

The Campanellos faced unique challenges, but they always kept their families close. Throughout their lives and especially in young adulthood, both of their parents supported them while also being role models through their loving marriages, kindness, intelligence and willingness to endure. “They supported both of us at Texas A&M and wanted us to succeed in life,” Laura said. “We asked ourselves, ‘How do we continue their legacy?’”

To answer that question, the Campanellos created two scholarships at their alma mater: one in honor of Laura’s parents, Laurine and Edwin Schwarz Jr. ’44, for Mays students, and another in honor of Johnny’s parents, Mattia and Sam Campanello, for Texas A&M-Galveston students majoring in marine fisheries. The scholarships will share their parents’ stories while impacting current and future Aggies.

The Campanellos have plans to increase their giving and provide even more Aggies with opportunities. “What better way to prepare yourself to change the world than to enroll yourself in a great university?” Johnny said. “If we can help relieve the financial burden of doing that for students, then we’ve accomplished our goal.”

You can play a part in Aggie success stories like the Campanellos! To learn how to create a scholarship to support first-generation students at Mays Business School, contact Cassie Mahoney '15 below.