Father and Son’s Career Paths Woven Together on Yale University’s Campus

December 20, 2023

Behind every person is a story. For Officer Joseph Funaro, it’s his father, Joseph Funaro, Sr’s love of art and how his artistic gift is prominently displayed on Yale University’s campus.

Funaro said his father decided not to join the family business and follow his passion for art. He studied art at Paier College of Art in Hamden and later returned there as a full-time professor for 40 years. In addition to teaching, Funaro said his father was commissioned to paint portraits.

Funaro, Sr’s connection to Yale University was by happenstance. “During an unveiling of a portrait my dad painted of Carl Hansen from Quinnipiac University, Gloria McHugh, Executive Director of Alumni Affairs at Yale Law School, said that she liked my father’s work, and they exchanged contact information,” Funaro said. “McHugh would call my father when they wanted a portrait painted of an alumnus.”

Funaro’s father painted 10 portraits for Yale University that include former Yale Law School professors, judges, solicitor general, deans of Yale College, but one of his most famous portraits is of former President William Clinton.

“My father received a call asking if he would paint a portrait of President Clinton. He was excited. Of course, he said yes,” said Funaro. Unlike the other portraits that Funaro, Sr. painted, he was sent professional photos of Clinton for the portrait. “My father converted a room in our home into a studio. The room had a lot of windows to get the perfect light for my father’s work. He would have the people come to our home and take the photos of the person from different angles,” Funaro said.

Funaro said that his father met Mr. and Mrs. Clinton at the unveiling of President Clinton’s portrait. “I was working police detail when Clinton was on campus at an event, and I told him that my father painted his portrait for the Law School. It was a full circle moment for me to introduce myself to him,” said Funaro.

Funaro didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps as an artist, but he took his career advice. “He always told me to find a job that will pay you a retirement and will pay you to do what you love,” said Funaro. “I love helping people and being a part of the community, and I always wanted to be a police officer.”

Funaro has been employed with the Yale Police Department for 22 years. His career path to law enforcement took a detour when he played for the Florida Marlins minor league from 1995-2000. He left the league to start a family.

Funaro said his father signs his artwork at the bottom left side of the portrait. However, that’s not the only paint stroke included on his father’s work. Funaro said his dad allowed him to paint a stroke on many of his father’s portraits.

“I’m proud of my father. When I go on a call into a building and look up and see my father’s work, I say, oh my God, that’s one of my dad’s portraits. I think it’s pretty cool when you think about it,” Funaro said.