In this interview, Donna Zaccaro, Brown University class of 1983, discusses her life on the campaign trail with her mother, Geraldine Ferraro – the first woman Vice Presidential nominee on a major party ticket; her path to becoming a documentarian; and the impeachment trial of United States President Donald Trump.
Zaccaro begins by sharing some family history. She describes her grandparents’ immigration to the United States from Italy, her parent’s upbringing, and her mother’s education and career, which included establishing the first ever Special Victims Bureau within the Queens County District Attorney’s Office in 1974. Zaccaro then details her mother’s path towards the Democratic Vice-presidential nomination and the effect that experience had on their entire family. Zaccaro describes her father as particularly supportive of her mother as she entered public life, the challenges her mother faced as a woman lawyer and politician and those her father experienced as a male spouse of a woman politician, and what it was like to campaign across the country as a family. Zaccaro shares memories of meeting the Democratic Presidential nominee, Walter Mondale, and his family in their home in Minnesota and realizing only then that Mondale’s son was her classmate at Brown.
Zaccaro recalls her early education at Marymount School of New York, Convent of the Sacred Heart, and the Spence School. She remembers considering twelve colleges and universities before deciding to attend Brown because of the open curriculum. She talks about her first time on campus, meeting with friends in the Rockefeller Library, and cycling through several concentrations before committing to comparative literature and art history. She goes on to talk about her career path that began on Wall Street where she tried pension fund law thinking that she would follow in her mother’s footsteps, become a lawyer, and eventually a politician. She explains that after deciding against that path, she worked as a financial analyst at Salomon Brothers and then earned an MBA from Harvard Business School. She discusses working on several marketing-startups as well as her decade-long work on NBC’s Today Show, and her decision to work on her own long-form documentaries.
As the interview closes, Zaccaro elaborates on founding her nonprofit production company, Ferrodonna Features, and creating Geraldine Ferraro: Paving the Way and To a More Perfect Union: U.S. v. Windsor. She also discusses the impeachment trial of Donald Trump and considers what her mother would have thought about this time in history. She also shares about doing all she can to elect a new President in 2020 and her work on Minnesota senator, Amy Klobuchar’s presidential campaign. She ends by expressing her appreciation for the life-long friendships she created while at Brown.
Recorded on January 31, 2020 in Pembroke Hall, Brown University, Providence, RI
Interviewed by Mary Murphy, Nancy L. Buc ’65 LLD‘94 hon Pembroke Center Archivist
Suggested Chicago style citation: Zaccaro, Donna. Interview. By Mary Murphy. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. January 31, 2020.
Donna Zaccaro was born in 1962 to Geraldine Ferraro and John Zaccaro. She is the eldest of three children. She grew up in New York City and attended Marymount School of New York, Convent of the Sacred Heart, and the Spence School. She went on to earn her AB in Comparative Literature with a minor in Art History from Brown University in 1983. In 1984, Zaccaro’s mother was nominated as Presidential-hopeful, Walter Mondale’s Vice President. Ferraro was the first woman, and first Italian-American, Vice Presidential nominee on a major party ticket. Zaccaro spent this time traveling the United States with her family campaigning for her mother’s election. After Ronald Regan won reelection, Zaccaro went on to work on Wall Street, earn her MBA from Harvard Business School, and work for NBC’s Today Show. In 2001, Zaccaro founded Ferrodonna Features, a nonprofit production company, which is well known for producing Geraldine Ferraro: Paving the Way, and To a More Perfect Union: U.S. v. Windsor. Zaccaro married Paul Ullman in 1989 with whom she has two children.