A smart, forward-looking, pragmatic woman

It all started with numbers. Sandra Bruni was one the first women in Italy to get a degree in Mathematics at the beginning of the XX century and graduated with full marks at the University of Padua. Being both demanding and generous, she has always taken into great consideration the value of merit and education.

Numbers… entrepreneurship. Together with the husband, the engineer Enea Mattei, she founded a company which is still producing tyres and compressors. After his death, she became responsible for the firm, which counted at that time, in the mid Fifties, more than 200 employees. As acknowledged by her husband, she played a big role in encouraging him to choose an entrepreneurial career.

Entrepreneurship… philanthropy. In the meantime she continued the activities of the Foundation promoted by Enea Mattei, whose aim was to help talented young students with low family income from Valtellina, a district in Northern Italy.

Give back project. Since she had never forgotten her own difficulties during her University years, once she’d retired from the entrepreneurial activity (1966), she decided to found Women’s colleges based on lay and merit principles, in order to promote cultural education of deserving students. This is why she created the “Foundation Sandra Bruni”, the female section of the historic male-only Collegio Ghislieri in Pavia. It was built at her own expenses to house and support financially 100 students selected on the basis of meritocratic criteria and coming from all over Italy. A bit more than ten years later, aware of the increasing potential of female professional contribution, she decided to focus even more on…


According to the same merit-based principles in 1978, when she was 82, she established the Collegio Nuovo - Sandra Bruni and Enea Mattei Foundation in Pavia. The area she chose, at that time, was marked as a rural landscape, but now  is the centre of the scientific and medical University Departments.  Her initiative was deeply inspired by the Colleges in the UK and in the US, which is similar to the centuries-old model in Pavia. With the open-mindedness due to her frequent travels and friendships all around the world, she devoted her last years as well as her personal endowments to the inauguration and development of both Colleges. All these efforts had one purpose: the benefit of young women that were talented, motivated and engaged, regardless of their financial means.

October 1973, she stated….

“If young students will be given the opportunity to spend some years in Colleges where they can freely exchange their views, discuss theories and problems, make plans, get in touch with students of foreign universities and read newspapers from many different countries, I am persuaded that women and men will complete their education and will be able  to hold high positions of responsibility, both in Italy and in many international institutions”. Sandra Bruni Mattei

Sandra Bruni Mattei, a woman, born in 1896, capable of making her own ambitions and dreams coincide with the improvement of the society as a whole, may have provided, as she stated, “a little drop which others may increase”. A real, small but powerful, agent of change, an example to follow: we can’t disregard the role of education for the world’s development and sustainability.
Collegio Nuovo | Fondazione Sandra e Enea Mattei | Pavia | C.F. 80015430186