Tocco's promise to help others took root as he began nine years of service as an instructor for the Dale Carnegie Leadership Course. He has also spent 25 years mentoring teens and young adults through the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership program.
Tocco first heard of Hillsdale when he received an issue of Imprimis from a friend ten years ago. He was so struck by what he read that he called President Larry Arnn's office the next day and stated his intention to help the school financially. As he learned more about the College through visits, he realized that Hillsdale offered something unique in higher education and something desperately needed. "I realized how important this school is to America because of its philosophy and strength of belief in our Constitution and its fortitude to maintain autonomy against all odds," he says. "A Hillsdale student can evaluate a problem with historical context and articulate solutions that are based on its constitutionality. The best news is that it does not take thousands to change the course of history, but only a few courageous and competent souls, the likes of which Hillsdale is graduating every spring."
Students not only have fun at the Challenge, but also take away valuable life insights. Benjamin Bixenmann, '05, a former Challenge participant, recalls an inspirational speech Tocco gave that day. "I started reading the books on his recommended reading list, and these truly gave my life new direction," he says. "I had always lacked a little bit of confidence in myself and in my ability to succeed. However, now I have successfully completed four years of medical school and am in year four of six of my neurological surgery residency program. I have spoken with Mr. Tocco several times since 2005 and thanked him for giving me the tools for success."
Over the last decade, Tocco has shared his message of positive leadership and service with students at both Hillsdale College and Hillsdale Academy, served as a judge in the Edward Everett Prize in Oratory competition, and offered leadership training to various campus groups. For his extraordinary service, Tocco was named an Honorary Alumnus at the 2010 Alumni Awards Banquet.
In addition to his speaking engagements and athletic activity, Tocco also spends time in artistic pursuits-writing, painting, sculpting, and photography. Last year, he published Art of the Journey, featuring selections of his art. While he hopes that the book will inspire others, the book also serves as another example of his support for Hillsdale, since all proceeds from sales will go to the College. Furthermore, Tocco has established a Hillsdale gift annuity and included the College in his estate plan.
Mark Meares, '88, director of the Southern Regional Office of lnstitutional Advancement, was the first College staff member to visit Tocco ten years ago, and he continues to work with him on the Tocco Challenge. "Don is 'all in' when it comes to Hillsdale College," he says. "Once he made the conscious decision to be involved, he was committed to offering all of himself-as a major benefactor through his Tocco Challenge, as an inspirational speaker
Journey, is a collection of his poetry and works of art. This hand some book makes an excellent Christmas gift. All proceeds from sales of the book go to Hillsdale College. The cost is $39.95. To order, call (248) 589-2170 or purchase at Amazon.com now.