“As we prepare to usher in the unofficial start of summer with backyard barbecues, boating, and fireworks, I ask the community to join the FKCC family to reflect on why this day is special to all of us.  Memorial Day is a time to honor the memories of those who died for our country.  It is a time for heroes, both those who have fallen and those who are still living.  In an era when we are constantly challenged by acts of terror and threats that are themselves acts of terror, it is important to give a moment in gratitude to those whose sacrifices allow all Americans the privilege to live in the greatest nation while helping others to fight for and to share in the principles of democracy.

I salute all of our veterans as well as current servicemen and women, and express my sincerest thanks to them and their families for their dedication, commitment and sacrifice, and for their continued service to protect our freedom.  Over the years, the College has benefitted from the services of many veterans.  Each one deserves special recognition.  Today, however, I honor the late Philip Toppino, a local leader, successful businessman, and a forefather of Florida Keys Community College.

Philip, along with three of his brothers, served in World War II.  He enlisted in the United States Army Signal Corps during the summer of 1941.  Philip trained at MacDill Field near Tampa and become a Technical Sergeant before being deployed overseas and stationed in Italy, specifically in Sardinia and Corsica.  The Italian island was a theater of bombing during the war; unfortunately, Philip fell victim to one such explosion.  Despite surgeries, the blast left him with burn scars along his face.

While the War was a tumultuous experience, there was one bright portion of Philip’s experience; he met and married his wife, Laila, in Corsica.  After the war, the couple returned to Key West and started a family.  Philip joined his father and brothers in running the family’s businesses.  He eventually became the President of the iconic Charley Toppino & Sons, Inc., a title he held until 1972.

As a businessman involved in many Keys’ initiatives, Philip envisioned the impact that local education and training could have on the economic health and prosperity for workers in the Keys.  He became part of a group of community leaders who organized efforts, and eventually lobbied in Tallahassee, to establish a college in the Keys.

After the successful establishment of “Monroe Junior College,” as FKCC was initially named in 1965, focus shifted to fundraising to support the success of the new college and its students.  Philip was one of the founding members of the FKCC Foundation, which cultivates funds for student scholarships as well as equipment and technology for academic programs.  He continued service on the FKCC Foundation’s Board of Directors for eight years before passing the torch to his younger brother Frank, who at age 93, still remains involved with activities at the College.

This Memorial Day 2017, FKCC remembers and salutes Philip Toppino.  We continue to value his leadership and service to our Country, State, and Community.”

Jonathan Gueverra, Ed.D
President & CEO, Florida Keys Community College