Suzanne and Fabian Fondriest (right) connect with students at Celebration of Scholarships. Photo by Thad Russell MFA 06 PH.
May 2024

RISD in Conversation

Through talking with students, Suzanne and Fabian Fondriest P 16 get insight into the unique skills and perspectives that their scholarship giving supports. 

As parent volunteers with RISD Admissions, Suzanne and Fabian Fondriest P 16 talked to newly admitted students still making decisions about where to attend college. This led to some great conversations, but some difficult ones, too. 

“A number of times, we heard a student say, ‘I’ve always wanted to go to RISD and it’s the best place for me. But even with financial aid, I can’t afford it.’ There were a lot of families having to make tough choices,” says Fabian. 

When he was asked to join the RISD finance committee and later the Board of Trustees, Fabian had those conversations in mind. Most of his previous philanthropic and volunteer work had been in education, and he and Suzanne want to ensure that arts education is available to talented, passionate students regardless of their financial backgrounds. So, Fabian joined the Board and he and Suzanne created the Fondriest Family Endowed Scholarship and contributed to the RISD Scholars Fund. They also support the RISD Fund and Museum Annual Fund. 

“I want to support the arts and humanities,” says Suzanne. “There is a real value in visual language and communicating through design. I want to help students with those interests as much as I can. RISD’s students have skills that are so important to society. If we can help even one person with those skills attend this school—the leader in its field— that’s great.” 

Fabian adds, “I grew up in an immigrant household in New York City, where Italian was my first language. I benefited from a lot of generosity throughout my education. That’s one reason why Suzanne and I support scholarships, at RISD and other schools. 

They recognized the skills and unique perspectives of RISD students as their daughter, Natalie Fondriest BRDD 16 IL, worked on her wide range of assignments and projects during her time there. 

Fabian and Suzanne continue to relish the opportunity to connect with students. When Natalie was a student, these connections would happen when they visited her on campus. They recall the excite ment of visiting studios on Families Weekend and witnessing students show off their tools and projects with insight and enthusiasm. 

“RISD’s students have skills that are so important to society. If we can help even one person with those skills attend this school—the leader in its field—that’s great.”
Fabian Fondriest P 16

Now, Suzanne and Fabian look forward to Celebration of Scholarships, an event to celebrate scholarship donors and student recipients, held each spring. There, the Fondriests have the opportunity to meet the recipients of their scholarships and talk with other students. 

In May 2024, Fabian co-hosted the event with President Williams. 

“I’m the old guy walking up to a group of students and asking what they’re working on,” Fabian says, laughing. “But they are happy to talk! I love hearing their stories, how they got here and what they want for the future.” 

Suzanne appreciates the openness and curiosity of RISD as an institution, as well as its students. 

“From the beginning, RISD seemed like a place where there was an openness to whatever students were bringing to the table and a willingness to challenge, support and develop the direction they wanted to take things,” she says. “This is what makes RISD special.” 

To learn more about scholarship giving, contact Vice President of Institutional Advancement Amanda Clark MacMullan at 401 454-6532 or