Communications Department Offers Scholarship for First Generation Students

Di Stefano pictured with her family.

Maria Di Stefano was an Administrative Assistant in the University’s Communication Department for more than 25 years. In addition to being an exemplary and inspiring member of the Villanova faculty, she was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, friend and advocate for her students. 

Di Stefano was born in Italy and came to the United States when she was a teenager. Immediately after high school, she began a secretarial career and did not attend college. After going back to school, she began her career at Villanova in a secretarial position in the College of Professional Studies. Eventually, Di Stefano began her work in the Communication Department and developed lasting connections with faculty, staff and especially students. 

While Di Stefano did not attend a four-year college, when the time came for her own children to apply to college, she was very proud, as they would be the first to attend and graduate college in her family, and at Villanova, nonetheless. 

Thus, in recognition of Di Stefano’s “kindness, resilience, effort, commitment, loyalty and support” a scholarship for First Generation Communication majors has been founded in her name and honor. Di Stefano went above and beyond for her students and truly wanted to see them succeed and thrive. A scholarship of this kind helps to promote the flourishing of Communication students, specifically first-generation college students who Di Stefano particularly wanted to help in any way possible. 

Loretta Chiaverini, a fellow Administrative Assistant in the Communication Department and one of Di Stefano’s closest friends, shared that “there was no one that cared more for the students than Maria. You can get the job done and do what you have to do, but she really cared.”

Similarly, one of Di Stefano and Chiaverini’s work-study students, Anthony Grasso, shared that he had only known Maria for seven months.

“Even though it was such a short amount of time, it felt like so much longer, and the impact she had will certainly last forever,” he said.

Her kind-hearted, selfless and fun-loving spirit is not only how Di Stefano’s family members will remember her, but also those who only got to experience her presence for just a short time.

This year, the inaugural Maria Di Stefano scholarship is awarding $500 for future Villanova costs to a first-generation Communication student who exemplifies the above attributes that Di Stefano radiated on a daily basis: kindness, compassion, commitment and loyalty.

According to the Communication Department, in order to be eligible for the scholarship, one must be a non-senior Communication major, in good academic standing for the current semester and a first-generation college student.

Heidi Rose, Ph.D., who is the Chair and a Professor of performance studies in the University’s Communication Department, shared that “while we need to start small in this inaugural year, we hope in the next few years to grow the scholarship substantially.” 

Rose is perhaps alluding to an increase in the number of students receiving the Maria Di Stefano scholarship every year. 

Applications for the scholarship are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 26. More information regarding the scholarship, qualifications and contact information can be found on the Communication Department’s website. 

Di Stefano’s legacy in the Communication Department and at the University will certainly live on in many ways for the many people she touched in her time at the University. The implementation of this scholarship in her name and honor will ensure that. Her legacy and soul will now, moving forward, also live on in the students who receive her scholarship every year.