The Sons of Italy Foundation (SIF) is just one week away from celebrating its 25th Anniversary National Education & Leadership Awards (NELA) Gala. Since then, over $51 million in scholarships have been awarded to bright, young Italian Americans. As we approach the silver anniversary of this momentous Washington event, we catch up with past scholarship recipients and ask how the Sons of Italy Foundation scholarship has helped shape who they are today.
Rob Benedetto graduated magna cum lade and Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard University in 1993 after receiving a SIF scholarship in 1989. He went on to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics from Brown University and landed a National Science Foundation postdoctoral research grant to research number-theoretic dynamical systems at Boston University. He began teaching at Amherst College in 2002 and served as the Mathematics Department chair from 2010-2012. He met his wife, Danielle, in graduate school and they both currently teach math at Amherst.
John (Basile) Berger received a SIF scholarship in 2003. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in accountancy. After his 2007 graduation, he took the CPA exam and achieved the highest score in the state of Illinois, receiving the Illinois CPA Society 2007 Gold Medal Award, as well as the AICPA 2007 Elijah Watt Sells Ward for being one of the top ten highest scorers in the country. John subsequently earned a J.D. from Notre Dame Law School and currently works as a corporate attorney for the law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP.
“I am grateful to the Sons of Italy and my benefactor Joe Cicippio for their generosity in helping me meet my educational goals,” he writes.
Corey Ciocchetti earned his SIF scholarship in 1996. He graduated from the University of Denver (DU), then Duke Law School, and is currently a professor of business ethics at DU and a professional speaker. He presents on living an authentic life and character development. On the past five years, he has spoken over 500 times in 37 states for clients ranging from the Federal Reserve Bank to MIT.
Here’s a link to his latest talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6YoKaqgJhQ
“I cannot begin to tell you how fortunate I feel to have been a part of this scholarship program,” he writes. “It gave me a ton of confidence in my abilities.”
Bill Karazsia received his SIF scholarship in 1996. He writes that without a Sons of Italy scholarship he would have never realized his dream of studying for a full year in Rome and connecting with family members all over Italy. Bill has since traveled to Italy dozens of times to work, live and vacation. He writes:
“I still remember my Nana reading about the Sons of Italy scholarship in her church bulletin and telling me I should apply. I remember traveling to Washington, D.C. to receive my scholarship at the Gala. That was almost 20 years ago. In my mind I can draw a straight line between those events and where I am now in my career. Although I had very big hopes for the award I received, I certainly underestimated all the magnificent places, opportunities, people and happiness it brought into my life.”
Edmund LoPresti received his scholarship from the SIF in 1993. He currently owns AT Sciences, a small business dedicated to research, development and commercialization of technology for people with disabilities. He earned a B.S. in Science of Electrical and Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, and then a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Pittsburgh. He is also an adjunct professor at Pitt where he participates in research and clinical service to match people with disabilities to the appropriate technology. He’s a proud husband and father of three girls.
“In my spare time I am an avid storyteller with an emphasis on Italian folk tales and tales from Renaissance Italian literature,” he writes.
Mikayla Patella-Buckley received her scholarship in 2001. She writes, “not only was the experience of coming to D.C. a memorable one in and of itself, but the scholarship funds enabled me to gain a much more enriching experience.”
Mikayla studied for a semester at Oxford University and was able to spend several weeks touring Italy with her father.
“One of the best memories he and I have of that trip is wandering through the cypress-covered hills outside Florence, each remarking how wonderful it felt to ‘come home,’” she writes.
Mikayla earned her M.I.T. from Seattle University and has been a chemistry teacher for the last seven years.
“I get to speak of the many accomplishments of Italy and Italian-American scientists (Avogadro, Galileo and Fermi, to name a few),” she writes.
Dominic A. Ricci from New Fairfield, Conn. was awarded a SIF scholarship in 1995. Since then, Dominic graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and earned a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Currently Dominic serves as the head of market risk management for emerging market and structured product business for HSBC in New York.
He proudly writes that he and his brother recently sent their parents to Bari, Italy for their 35th Wedding Anniversary.
Geraldine Visco of New York, N.Y. is a performer, writer, photographer and nightlife personality. She was awarded a SIF scholarship in 1994, and holds a B.A. in Literature, an M.F.A. in Writing and an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University.
“Receiving the SIF scholarship was very helpful to me, and meant a lot in my pursuit of a career in the arts,” she writes.
An academic departmental administrator at the Department of Classics at Columbia for the past 25 years, she is currently completing a memoir about her life in New York City during the 1970s and 1980s.
Written and compiled by OSIA National Office Staff Assistant, Carol Cummings.