When C.P. Mercadante, along with his mother and two siblings, immigrated to the United States from his native Italy in 1922 to join the family patriarch, Giovanni, he was embarking on a new life. He was 6 years old, spoke no English and had no way of knowing that almost 90 years later, his success in achieving the “American Dream” would result in an endowed scholarship at Cameron University. Mercadante, who passed away in 1990, has been so honored thanks to a $30,000 gift to the Cameron University Foundation from his son, Lawton resident John Mercadante. The gift will be used to establish the C.P. Mercadante Endowed Scholarship.
(From left): CU Foundation Chairman Dan Mullins, John Mercadante and CU President Cindy Ross.
“International students enrich our campus, and many struggle financially,” says Cameron University President Cindy Ross. “This scholarship affords them additional opportunities. The establishment of the C.P. Mercadante Endowed Scholarship is a significant gift and a most appropriate way for John to honor his dad.”
“My father loved this community,” says John Mercadante. “From his first visit in 1953, he was struck by the friendliness of the people of Lawton. He believed in giving back to the community that had so graciously welcomed him. Because Cameron provides a great education to so many international students, welcoming them much the same way my father was welcomed to this community and preparing them for success in the business world, I am happy to provide this gift for an endowed scholarship in his honor.”
C.P. Mercadante was born in Casale di Principe, Italy. When the Mercadante family arrived in America, docking at Ellis Island and being welcomed by the Statue of Liberty, they dedicated themselves to achieving a life of prosperity and success. The family settled in Amsterdam, N.Y.; C.P. had to drop out of school at the age of 14 to help support his family three years after his father died. In 1942, he enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps and attained the rank of sergeant before his discharge in 1946. Following the war, he established a home repair business in Amsterdam. In 1953, he and his wife Helen came to Lawton to visit his sister and her husband, Rose and John Bianco. Enjoying their experience, they relocated to Oklahoma that same year to join Rose and John in the operation of Bianco’s Italian Restaurant. In 1956, Mercadante opened Dante’s Italian Restaurant in downtown Lawton; Dante’s Pizza Village followed in 1960. Mercadante became a respected Lawton community leader and highly successful businessman, signaling that anything is possible through hard work.
By 1976, after developing an interest in stained glass, he purchased Lawton Glass and Mirror, which was operated by the Mercadante family for many years after his death.
His business interests also include the Renaissance Stained Glass Studio (now the Multipurpose Building) at 12th and Ferris and Gore Plaza at 19th and Gore. He developed the latter with partner Ray DelVecchio.
C.P. Mercadante’s dedication to his community was evidenced by his service on the boards of Lawton Community Theatre, Lawton-Fort Sill Arts Council, the American Red Cross and the Lawton Philharmonic Society, of which he was a lifetime member. He also served on the board of St. Gregory’s College in Shawnee. In 1969, he was appointed by Lawton Mayor Wayne Gilley as one of the original 11 trustees of the newly formed Arts and Humanities Trust. Mercadante was also a member of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA), Southwest Oklahoma Opera Guild and the Lawton Chamber of Commerce.
Eligibility for the C.P. Mercadante Endowed Scholarship is based on several factors. Priority will be given to foreign-born students who are incoming freshmen and who are pursuing a degree from the Cameron University School of Business. For complete details, including application for Cameron University scholarships, contact the Office of Financial Assistance at 580-581-2293 or online at www.cameron.edu/financial_aid.