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MSU hosts celebration of Jim Pignataro's life

September 2, 2021
<p>Guests at the Vigil for Jim Pignataro at the Clara Bell Smith Center on Sept 1, 2021. </p>

Guests at the Vigil for Jim Pignataro at the Clara Bell Smith Center on Sept 1, 2021.

Photo by Lauren Snyder | The State News

On the night of Sept. 1, Michigan State hosted a celebration of life honoring Executive Associate Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Services Jim Pignataro. 

Pignataro died on Aug. 27 after a long battle with cancer at the age of 49 years old.

Pignataro's meaningful impact on many was apparent as the field outside of the Smith Center was filled with former student-athletes, colleagues, family and friends.

“Tonight I choose once again, not to say goodbye. Rather, rest easy Jimmy P,” former Director of Admissions and friend of Pignataro Jim Cotter said during the service. “The world is a better place because you lived.”

Friends and former colleagues of Pignataro took the podium in his honor to talk about the type of man Pignataro was and the memories they shared together, many of them stating he was a man of honor, respect and humility. 

Pastor Ken Bieber of River Terrace Church in East Lansing noted that Pignataro treated everyone with respect, from future professional athletes to big MSU donors to the cooks and custodians. 

“The pride he took in being the best he could be at his job, which could total well over 60 hours a week, was infectious,” Senior Associate Athletic Director at the University of Oklahoma Mike Meade said. “It was all in the name of supporting student-athletes and supporting the mission of the sport. He can take a brief interaction with anyone and have them come away feeling as if they had known him for years.”

From 2008 to 2015, Pignataro served as the Associate Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Services and from 2002 to 2017 as the Director of Student-Athlete Support Services at MSU. He also spent time serving in Athletic Academic Services at Eastern Michigan University, Florida State University and the University of Tennessee. 

His legacy is impactful at MSU and beyond as he spent many years working with countless student-athletes, constantly supporting and encouraging them.

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