In a long career at UConn as a professor of fine arts and the director of the William Benton Museum of Art, Salvatore Scalora ’71 has seen the power of philanthropy.
Today, Scalora and his family personify it in their tribute to his late wife, Mary Scalora ’80, ’92, by creating and supporting a fund to help students following her footsteps in social work.
Mary Scalora graduated from UConn in 1980 to become a teacher, but soon realized that the social problems her students experienced at home were negatively impacting their ability to learn.
“I think she looked around and thought, ‘I can do more good for these kids in another way,’” Scalora says.
Mary started a second career, graduating from the School of Social Work in 1992. She established a private counseling practice in the couple’s home, specializing in issues relevant to women, adolescents, and families; and individuals living with life-threatening illnesses, and their families.
“The proudest thing she had done was to get her social work degree,” Scalora says. “She loved her life, she loved being part of a community, and always knew what she wanted to do.”
Following Mary’s death in 2007 after a long fight with cancer, Scalora’s daughter-in-law, Kate ’07, suggested that the family give back by establishing a fund devoted to supporting the next generation of social workers. The Mary Deane-Scalora Endowment Fund provides scholarship support for graduate students enrolled full-time in the master’s degree program at the UConn School of Social Work.
“We asked, ‘What would Mary want?’ and it was logical that she’d want to help other students,” Scalora says. “It was really the concept of ‘doing the good,’ and I can’t think of anything better than helping to train students who dedicate their lives to helping others. It’s leaving a legacy that is a perpetual health machine.”
Scalora has also remained active in the School of Social Work community, and recently was the featured speaker at the school’s scholarship dinner, where he talked about Mary, the power of art, and the passion for helping others that sprung from his marriage. In addition to his daughter-in-law, who also practices social work, Scalora’s son, Joshua, is in the human services field, and Scalora jokes that he hopes his young grandson will consider it as a career, in 18 years.
He believes the passion in caring for others is not dissimilar to teaching.
“Mary and I were children of the 1960s and 1970s,” he says. “We were always engaged and vocal in the political situation. Students today tend to not be as vocal, but they are just as dedicated to the world around them. I was very fortunate to have had a long career at the University and my great love was always interacting with students. You’re seeing young lives developing and you witness seeds being planted that will only blossom much later in life. You can’t get that any other way, and that’s what we hope the gift will accomplish. It’s a privilege to be a part of it.”
For more information about supporting the School of Social Work, please contact the UConn Foundation’s development department.