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An award-winning stage and screen actor best known for his roles in Hollywood films will serve as La Roche College’s commencement speaker this coming May. Danny Aiello has accepted an invitation to speak from Monsignor William Kerr, La Roche College president. He is the grandfather of Dawn Aiello, a La Roche senior who will graduate this spring with a degree in psychology.

“I’m just used to him as my grandfather. I don’t see him as an actor,” said Dawn Aiello, the first Aiello to graduate from college who admits that her grandfather couldn’t be prouder. “He’s one of the sweetest people in the world. Unlike many Hollywood actors, he’s very down-to-earth.”

Aiello is perhaps best known for his role in Moonstruck as Cher’s jilted fiancé. He received both Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for his portrayal of “Sal” in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. Other film credits include: City Hall, with a cast that included Al Pacino; and The Cemetery Club, where Aiello played opposite Ellen Burstyn, Olympia Dukakis and Diane Ladd.

Raised primarily by his mother, Aiello hails from a working class New York family of seven brothers and sisters. As a teenager, Aiello served in the Army for three years. He did not consider acting until he was furloughed from his position as President of the Greyhound Bus Union a number of years later. A job as a bouncer at a New York comedy club allowed Aiello to serve as a fill-in emcee, which gave him his first performance experience.

Despite Aiello’s busy schedule, he devotes his time and energy to a number of charitable endeavors. He often appears in public service announcements for organizations such as the United Way and the Salvation Army. He is also actively involved in the Hole in the Wall Gang, a Connecticut-based organization founded by Paul Newman that helps children with catastrophic diseases. In addition, he works closely with the Frances Aiello Day Treatment Center in Brooklyn. The facility is named for Aiello’s late mother and treats young adults and children who cannot see or hear. Currently, Aiello is appearing in an Off-Broadway production titled Adult Entertainment. He lives in New Jersey.

Commencement at La Roche College is scheduled for Saturday, May 10 in the Kerr Fitness and Sports Center.

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