West Florida Market President for Florida Blue David Pizzo died Friday. He was 64.
Pizzo was undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer during the last year, battling the disease in private, according to his family's statement on the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network website.
"Dad fought privately and bravely for almost a year after receiving his diagnosis," the family says in a statement. "His biggest hope was to get into a clinical trial, but unfortunately the timing did not work out."
By Monday afternoon, a fundraiser had raised $24,600. And tributes from businesspersons and nonprofit agencies flooded LinkedIn and Facebook, including posts from the CEO Council, United Way Suncoast, Feeding Tampa Bay, the Nonprofit Leadership Center and the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.
And from his son.
"I don't know a single person that's ever had a negative thing to say about you, professionally or personally," says son Chris Pizzo, founding partner of Druid Ventures, in a LinkedIn post. "You're genuinely the nicest and most caring person I've ever met."
Last September, while fighting cancer, Pizzo signed up for the Tampa Medical and Research District Advisory Committee, a Tampa General Hospital board to advise on the Tampa Medical and Research District, to add more life-science presence downtown.
David Pizzo had written he wanted to solve the ever-present problems of health care and related policy. Just last week, Pizzo took to LinkedIn and congratulated Florida Blue CEO Pat Geraghty on attending Florida State University's first "Business of Healthcare Summit."
"Two hundred business and health leaders met in Tallahassee to address the industry's most pressing workforce, policy, financial and technology issues," Pizzo wrote. "We are solving these issues together with our partners in academia and beyond."
Pizzo was a sought-after volunteer or board member. He was 2013 chairman of the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council.
"(Pizzo) played a key role in the establishment of this EDC," says Craig J. Richard, Tampa Bay EDC CEO, in a statement emailed to the Business Observer. "We are grateful for his decades of visionary leadership and the impact he has had in shaping Tampa Bay's economic growth."
More standout civic work? Pizzo helped raise $1 million for GTE Financial's scholarship program, for which the credit union CEO says would not have succeeded without him.
"Many don't know, but David immediately stepped in when GTE Financial began our student scholarship program," says Brian Best, GTE Financial president and CEO in a blog post on the GTE website. "He co-chaired the Scholarship Judging Committee for 11 years alongside Rhea Law. … He never blinked at volunteering, even though he had an extremely busy schedule."
Pizzo worked as market president for almost 17 years. He had been with Florida Blue since 1997. Before that, he worked eight years as an executive for Ogilvy CommonHealth.
Geraghty, president and CEO of GuideWell and Florida Blue, says Pizzo was a community leader, not just an executive.
"Dave was truly a gem," says Geraghty in a LinkedIn post. "He loved his family, he loved GuideWell-Florida Blue, and he loved his Tampa community. There were very few community organizations that Dave did not impact either as chair, board member, volunteer, contributor, participant or fan."
Pizzo was chairman of Tampa Bay Partnership for two years, board member of United Way Suncoast, board member of the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council, board member of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, and advisory board member of the University of South Florida Muma College of Business, and more.
Pizzo had a bachelor's degree from Rutgers University and an MBA from New York University.
Pizzo gave life, business and community everything he had, says Geraghty.
"Dave lived life with gusto, and he was all in on anything he endeavored upon," says Geraghty. "He never met a stranger. He embraced life with enthusiasm, and he made a difference! I am honored to be able to call Dave a friend."
Jim Stinson is the Business Observer's Tampa Bay business reporter and editor, having previously written about business and policy in Washington, D.C.; Rochester, New York; Gary, Indiana; and Daytona Beach. He attended Boston University for business and Indiana University for journalism.