Fifty Years of Service

Tony Leggiadro: Offering Fifty Years of Engineering Ingenuity

It’s rare these days for an individual to spend their entire career at one institution. It’s rarer still if that career spans 50 years. At this year’s employee service reception, held in Lubin Dining Hall, one such individual stood at the pinnacle of such service – machinist Tony Leggiadro.

Tony Leggiadro (right) holds one of the instruments he devised at the request of Einstein investigators, with his supervisor, Richard Civitano
Tony Leggiadro (right) holds one of the
instruments he devised at the request of
Einstein investigators, with his supervisor,
Richard Civitano
Born and educated in the borough, Mr. Leggiadro truly is a man of the Bronx and of Einstein in every sense. Since graduating from Bronx Vocation Trade High School in 1959, Einstein has been his only place of employment. “I grew up on Morris Avenue where my father had a butcher shop, but I didn’t want to follow in his footsteps,” he reflected. “Although it wasn’t easy finding a good job out of high school, fortunately my high school had a very good placement service for graduating machinists.”

Having opened its doors only a few years earlier, Einstein’s new facilities were under construction and its engineering department was still in development.

“My friend Jack Mangin and I were hired by Einstein right after graduation, he said. “But I never could have imagined that I would spend the rest of my career here. This building [Forchheimer] was brand new and in great shape when I started — and I’m proud to say I’ve had a part in keeping it that way.”

While occasionally there were temptations to go elsewhere, ultimately, Mr. Leggiadro always decided that Einstein was the place to stay. Among the contributing factors to these decisions were the strong friendships, camaraderie and high level of professionalism that marked the institution, he noted.

There also have been significant changes in the personnel as colleagues have retired or, in more recent cases, passed away.Tony Leggiadro with his wife
Tony Leggiadro with his wife,
Maria, at the employee service
recognition ceremony
“I was very close with Tony Annunziata, my former department director. His death two years ago hit me hard. We had worked together a really long time and he had just retired.”

Through these many years, the nature of Mr. Leggiadro’s work within the facilities management/engineering department has changed as well. In the earlier years, machinists were often called upon to assist in the fabrication of equipment, with particular specifications provided by researchers. Some examples of these helpful laboratory instruments include a DNA molecule stretcher, which researchers exploit to stretch single DNA molecules onto a glass slide by pulling the slide slowly from a narrow chamber containing the DNA solution, and a device known as an electrophoresis apparatus, which researchers utilize to separate DNA or RNA molecules, by size, in an agarose gel — which helps to stabilize the molecules as they migrate through the pores of the gel.

“Tony is one of our greatest assets, and our researchers should take advantage of the skills he has to offer,” said Dr. Carl Schildkraut, professor of cell biology. “He is extremely knowledgeable and has taken the information we’ve provided him to create very practical solutions to our equipment needs.”

“Tony’s primary mission early in his career was to support investigators by producing these scientific products that they requested,” noted Richard Civitano, associate director of operations and maintenance, who has been a supervisor of Mr. Leggiadro’s since 1976. “The researchers knew they could count on Tony for his creativity, metalworking skills, and ability to take an esoteric concept and fashion it into a functioning device.”

He added, “While the demand for that type of work diminished over time, recently we’ve made efforts to re-acquaint Einstein researchers with this in-house capability and there has been an increase in requests.”

Dr. Zeqiang Guan works with a molecule stretcher, created by Mr. Leggiadro, in the laboratory of Dr. Carl Schildkraut.
Dr. Zeqiang Guan works with a molecule
stretcher, created by Mr. Leggiadro, in the
laboratory of Dr. Carl Schildkraut.
As Einstein’s buildings have begun to age, more of a focus has turned toward keeping the medical school’s physical plant up to grade. “Tony’s versatility and expertise working with high pressure steam, heavy valves and complex cooling tower equipment means he’s invaluable to have on hand when things aren’t quite what they should be,” noted Mr. Civitano. “And, with his excellent work ethic, he is always available, without complaint, to address any kind of emergency, regardless of the hour.”

When he’s not at work, Mr. Leggiadro enjoys the time he spends with his family. “My wife and I have two wonderful grandchildren thanks to our daughter and our very nice son-in-law.”

He makes his home in Orange County, but insists that the considerable commute is not really a bother. “My grandchildren keep me busy, with their weekend soccer games and ballet practice. And, when I can get away for a little fresh or saltwater fishing, life is good.”

When asked how long he plans to continue working, he shrugged. “I can’t answer that because I still enjoy the people I work with and the variety of the job. But one day I might just say enough is enough and say good-bye to my friends at Einstein.”

Until that day comes, you’re likely to find Mr. Leggiadro helping a researcher to devise a new gadget that will aid their investigations or making sure the Einstein campus remains in tiptop shape. When you do, be sure to thank him for all he does, and has done, to keep things running smoothly.

Posted on: Friday, June 18, 2010