Cities and states do not progress and prosper randomly. To thrive, they need leaders whose creative vision is matched by the drive, energy, and diplomatic skills that can draw together diverse people and disparate factions into a common – and ultimately successful – undertaking. Such a leader is Joseph R. DiStefano.
Born in Providence on February 4, 1938, Joe DiStefano was educated in the Providence public schools, received his bachelor of arts degree in 1959 from Providence College, with high honors, and his law degree from Georgetown University. However, his talents and interests soon took him far beyond the courtroom. In 1966, with no prior experience in the railroad industry, Joe lead a successful entrepreneurial undertaking to wrest control of the Providence and Worcester Railroad from Penn Central. Then, as secretary and general counsel for the freight carrier, he turned the Providence and Worcester into a successful enterprise serving Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. The skills he honed during his seventeen years with the railroad led to the presidency of Capital Properties, Inc.
Joe’s tenure at Capital Properties (1983-1995) changed not only the skyline of Providence, but the commercial life of Rhode Island for all time. Under Joe’s direction, such projects as the Citizens Bank Building, the Center Place Apartments, and the G-Tech headquarters came into being. During the last year of his tenure at Capital Properties, Joe brought his expertise to the chairmanship of the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority, which also exercised oversight of the Westin Hotel.
But it is not just commercial enterprises that have benefited from Joe’s leadership and industry. Rhode Island’s health and educational institutions have also been marked by his creativity. At various times, Joe has served on the Board of Trustees of St. Joseph Health Services, Providence College, and Roger Williams University, and he chairs the board at Salve Regina University, which has grown on many fronts during the last two decades.
As if his many interests and activities were not enough for two or three lifetimes, Joe also served four terms in the Rhode Island State Senate. From 1977 to 1979, he had the thankless position of Democratic State Chairman. Then he undertook the equally thankless position as chairman of the Rhode Island State Board of Elections from 1979 through 1994.
Presently Joe is a partner in the prestigious law firm of Adler, Pollock & Sheehan P.C. Joe and his wife of 44 years, Barbara, live in Jamestown where they raised three sons, David, Gregory and Michael.