uAspire First One – Nick Fyntrilakis

By: Chris Loney | Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Finances are the #1 barrier that keeps high-potential students across our country from continuing their education and earning a degree. As part of the uAspire First One Awards, uAspire will be featuring stories of individuals who are first-generation college graduates. Despite many challenges – often because of the high costs of college – they persevered and earned their college degree. Their stories show why it’s so important that education remains an affordable option to all, and how uAspire is committed to this effort.

The following story is about Nick Fyntrilakis, Vice President for Community Responsibility at MassMutual Financial Group.

Nick Fyntrilakis knew from an early age that he would go to college. In fact, he was never allowed to think any differently. Nick’s story exemplifies how the support he received from his family and his community allowed him to apply for, pay for, and graduate from college as a first generation student – a debt that his career allows him to continually repay.

Neither of Nick’s parents received a college diploma. His father immigrated to America from Greece and worked hard as a factory laborer until he was able to open a small restaurant business to support his family. His mother began her post-secondary education, but was unable to finish. Still, in Nick’s household, college was an indisputable step to follow after high school. Even his grandmother, who lived on the family’s second floor and had minimal formal education herself, expected her grandson to get a college degree. Ultimately, these expectations made Nick believe that college could be attainable.

But regardless of all the support from his family, actually affording the degree presented another barrier. Once he received his acceptance letters – and then his financial aid letters – he had to decide what school he could afford. After much deliberation, Nick chose the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Even after student loans and financial aid, he worked at school and almost full-time at his father’s restaurant in order to make it through college. Support from his parents filling out the FAFSA and a small scholarship from the Greek-American community might not have given Nick a free ride, but they were the difference between affording college and getting stuck behind a financial barrier.

Receiving a college diploma has given Nick more than a fulfilling career. It has provided him with a chance to give back to all the communities that gave to him. Nick is currently Vice President of Community Responsibility at MassMutual and manages over $10 million in charitable giving that supports economic development and educational and community vitality efforts. He serves as Chairman of Develop Springfield, where in 2011 he led efforts to rebuild the city after a tornado devastated the area. Nick also chaired the Greek-American scholarship fund that once gave to him, and has been a vocal supporter of the Springfield public school system that put him on the path to postsecondary success. Nick recognizes that without the support he received from his family and community to afford college, he would not be in a position to create change and give back. College was his ticket—now he helps others find theirs.

BS, Resource Economics and Environmental Science – University of Massachusetts Amherst (1996)

MBA, Business and Marketing – Western New England University (2004)

One Response to “uAspire First One – Nick Fyntrilakis”

  1. Gloria E Colon says:

    Yes… made it because of your hard work and determination. No freebies. Congratulation!!!