Mike Handzo and Emmanuel Santa-Donato reunite on Lafayette's campus with the city of Easton displayed in the background.

Mike Handzo ’11 and Emanuel Santa-Donato ’10 discovered a Lafayette connection through the course of their work in affordable housing.

By: Hasnat Aslam ’27

When Emanuel Santa-Donato ’10, senior vice president at Tomo, contacted organizations developing affordable housing, he surprisingly found another Lafayette alum, Mike Handzo ’11, at the other end. Handzo serves as the senior director, capital and special projects at Community Action Lehigh Valley, an organization involved in fighting poverty and providing opportunity throughout the Lehigh Valley. Tomo, headquartered in Stamford, Conn., is a mortgage company specializing in innovative lending solutions.

As part of their collaboration, Community Action Lehigh Valley—through a lending partnership with Tomo—is helping to develop five permanently affordable new construction townhomes in Glendon, a neighboring borough of Easton. According to Santa-Donato, who was an economics and modern Japanese studies major at Lafayette, “This allows the creation of perpetual affordable housing, something we desperately need.” Handzo, who majored in government and law at Lafayette, says the project would allow people to gain a foothold in the middle class and get the benefits of homeownership.

“Lafayette immediately provided me and Emanuel enough commonality to hit the ground running,” Handzo says. “I like to develop a connection with my colleagues beyond a business level. This is what gives teams a common purpose, and the Lafayette connection between us cemented that from the start.”

For Handzo, Lafayette was a launchpad for the work he’s been doing since graduation. As a student, he was heavily involved in the Landis Center for Community Engagement. “Through the Landis Center, I built connections with the community around me that became deep enough to sustain me beyond graduation.” 

Santa-Donato, who was an active member of the Lafayette Activities Forum while on campus, says his Lafayette education provided him key skills that are now essential to his work: “the mindset to dig into problems, understand what’s really going on, and ask a lot of questions.”

According to Josh Walker, associate director, employer relations and outreach at Gateway Career Center, “These alums are going to allow people to be homeowners in a way that is affordable and accessible, which is very special.” Walker, who regularly engages with alumni, says that strong bonds continue to form among alumni throughout their careers, as the Lafayette bond does not end at graduation.

Categorized in: Alumni, Alumni Profiles, Alumni Success Stories, Careers, Featured News, Landis Center, News and Features

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