Chester, Pa.—For thousands of Italian immigrants to the United States at the turn of the 20th century, two important priorities were maintaining their culture and making sure their children could pursue a higher education to build a better life in America.
The members of the Historic XII October Lodge #486 of the Sons and Daughters of Italy and the Former Columbus Center Association of Chester, Pa. for years have been working to preserve their Italian heritage in Delaware County. On Wednesday, they made a generous contribution to education, announcing the establishment of a $100,000 endowed scholarship fund at Widener University for students studying Italian language or culture. They announced the scholarship with a check presentation to Widener President Julie E. Wollman.
Dr. Sam Cimino, president of the organization, said the gift was in remembrance of the Italian immigration to Chester at the turn of the century, and the long relationship the organization has had with Widener University.
“We would like to recognize Dr. Thomas Benedetti for his support and enhancement of the Italian studies program at Widener University,” Cimino said. “Dr. Benedetti engaged the lodge, and the local Italian community, in events at Widener, providing an enriching experience for our members and a deeper educational experience for Widener students.”
The income from the fund will be used to support at least one partial scholarship for a student studying Italian language or culture with preference given to a student who is minoring in Italian. The student must be full time and in good academic standing to qualify.
“Studying new languages and other cultures is an important part of Widener’s emphasis on global engagement and awareness,” Dr. Wollman said. “This generous gift from the Sons and Daughters of Italy will provide an additional incentive and important financial support for Widener students interested in Italian.”
For about 13 years, members of the organization have been coming to Widener for Italian Cinema Night, watching classic films by such artists as Federico Fellini and Roberto Rossellini and newer releases from the home of their ancestors, followed by group discussion.
Benedetti, an associate professor of Italian and Spanish at Widener, has been hosting the Italian Cinema Nights at the university since 2003. A member of Lodge #486, Benedetti has also helped spearhead the annual Italian Music Festival held at Widener.
Benedetti said there are currently more than 60 students studying the Italian language and culture at Widener. “I would like to see that number grow,” Benedetti said. “With the generous gift from the Sons and Daughters of Italy, we can make that happen.”
Veronica Barbato, vice president of the organization and a Widener graduate, said she recalls the emphasis her family, and other Italian families in Chester, put on education. “They always saved money for education and dreamed of providing an education for their children,” she said. “If they were here today, they would be very pleased that we are doing this.”
photo: Dr. Sam Cimino (left), president of the Historic XII October Lodge #486 of the Sons and Daughters of Italy and the Former Columbus Center Association of Chester, Pa., and lodge Treasurer Clotilda Mack (center) present Widener University President Julie E. Wollman (right) with a check for $100,000 to establish a scholarship fund for the study of the Italian language and culture.