September 05, 2013

W. P. Carey School professor to receive volunteer award

Posted: September 05, 2013
Associate Professor Phil Mizzi
Phil Mizzi, an associate professor in the W. P. Carey School of Business, will receive a lifetime achievement award for volunteering with St. Vincent de Paul.

One Friday each month, ASU's Phil Mizzi can be found in St. Vincent de Paul’s kitchen, leading an assembly line of volunteers, rolling dough, spreading toppings and sliding pizzas in and out of hot ovens. Some volunteers are new, while others are regulars, but all follow Mizzi’s lead and work together like a well-oiled machine. Every pizza night, the team produces more than 100 pizzas for hungry children and parents who count on St. Vincent de Paul’s family dining room for dinner.

On Sept. 18, St. Vincent de Paul will present its third annual Andy Andreano Lifetime Achievement Award to Mizzi, who took the pizza nights from concept to reality. The award is named after the charity’s longest-serving volunteer, who is in his 44th year at St. Vincent de Paul. The award is meant to honor one volunteer each year who has gone above and beyond in service to the community.

“Andy has a huge role in St. Vincent de Paul’s legacy, including helping to build our kitchen and food bank,” said Jerry Castro, St. Vincent de Paul’s dining room manager. “I can’t think of a better person to receive the award this year than Phil.”

Having volunteered for nearly 20 years, Mizzi has given his time in many capacities. The W. P. Carey School of Business associate professor has done everything from serving on the board to leading teams of students to cook meals. He has even conducted business analyses with his economics and MBA students to maximize St. Vincent de Paul’s resources. Right now, Mizzi is also known at St. Vincent de Paul as the in-house pizza expert.

For several years, he dreamed of building a professional pizza kitchen in St. Vincent de Paul’s central kitchen. He wanted to serve handmade pizzas to the hundreds of families who frequent the Family Evening Meal program. With the right ingredients, the pizzas would be a special treat, as well as healthy and balanced meals for struggling families.

Mizzi and his students researched the costs and benefits of the pizza kitchen. Their report showed that, in addition to enhancing meals in the dining room, the project would end up saving St. Vincent de Paul money in the long run.

The purpose of our family dining room is to feed hungry people, but we’ve always looked for ways to make it an excellent experience for kids and parents,” said Castro. “Phil’s pizza project fits right in with our goal to enhance the quality of meals and promote the dignity of our guests.

Mizzi’s dream became a reality last year when a generous donor read about Mizzi’s plans in The Arizona Republic. The donor wished to remain anonymous, but gave a gift that covered all of the startup expenses.

The ovens and equipment were installed, and pizza nights became the favorite dinner among guests. Mizzi worked with St. Vincent de Paul’s medical clinic to develop nutritious pizza recipes and he continues to evaluate ways to improve. The pizzas are made with thin, whole wheat crust, low-fat cheese and fresh vegetables, and they are served with unlimited trips to the salad bar. Many parents have commented about how their children have learned to love spinach, bell peppers and mushrooms – all popular toppings on Mizzi’s pizzas.

“Phil is not just a committed volunteer who faithfully gives his time here; he also looks for ways to harness the interests and talents of students,” said Castro. “His influence goes beyond St. Vincent de Paul. He’s serving our guests and teaching students creative ways to use their education for the good of our community. We are so fortunate to have Phil as a volunteer and we are thrilled to finally publicly recognize him for all that he does.”