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Why I give: Camille A. Paglia '68 describes sentiments behind new scholarship

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Camille A. Paglia '68, an author and professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, was a guest speaker at the Binghamton University Foundation Scholarship Donors Luncheon, held Nov. 8, 2014. She established the Paglia-Colapietro Memorial Scholarship in 2014. Keri Mastro, Class of 2016, is the first recipient of the scholarship.


The Paglia-Colapietro Memorial Scholarship is named for my two families, who emigrated from Italy and settled in Endicott's North Side (in New York). My paternal grandfather, Pasquale J. Paglia, owned a barbershop in his house next to the Sons of Italy on Odell Avenue. My maternal grandfather, Felice Colapietro, worked in the Endicott-Johnson shoe factories and built a house up the hill on Oak Hill Avenue near St. Anthony of Padua church. I was born in Endicott and spent much of my childhood in those two houses, where I was baby-sat by my adored grandmothers, Alfonsina Paglia and Vincenza Colapietro. Like most Italians, they had vegetable gardens out back, with a chicken coop or goats.

The North Side was a true Little Italy where few older people spoke English. My grandmothers took me shopping at Rossi's or Tedeschi's market, where I was fascinated by the wooden kegs of floating olives. We got fresh crusty bread daily from Battaglini's bakery on Oak Hill Avenue, near the park with its swimming pool and merry-go-round. The massive yellow-brick bell tower of St. Anthony's was a dominant presence. The Italian men had to be dragged to church, but the women were very devout. I vividly remember the eerie novenas with the chanting of the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. St. Anthony's played a huge role in my life: its gorgeous stained-glass windows and polychrome saints' statues were my first introduction to art.

My father, Pasquale J. Paglia Jr., married my mother, Lydia Colapietro, in 1946, the same year Triple Cities College was established in Endicott. As a U.S. Army veteran (he had been
a paratrooper in World War II), he was able to enroll on the GI Bill — the first member of his family to attend college. I was born while he was still a student, mopping floors in the college
cafeteria. Like her mother and sister Angelina, my mother earned extra money as a seamstress, working at home. Later she became a bank teller on Washington Avenue. In 1950, Triple Cities was absorbed into the newly created State University of New York and became Harpur College. My father was in the first class who graduated with a Harpur diploma.

We later moved to the village of Oxford, N.Y., where my father taught high school for three years. Then we left for Syracuse, N.Y., where he did graduate work at Syracuse University before
taking a job as a professor of Romance languages at LeMoyne College, where he taught for the rest of his life. The terms of the Paglia-Colapietro Scholarship thus refer to the three places where my family lived: Broome, Chenango and Onondaga counties.

It was natural for me to attend Harpur College, because it was my father's alma mater. He and my mother had often spoken admiringly of the dean of Triple Cities College and later first president of Harpur, Glenn G. Bartle, and his gracious wife,
who hosted receptions for the students. Hence I was delighted to discover, on my return to Binghamton University for the festive Scholarship Luncheon, that the library where I studied has been renamed for President Bartle.

I had a superb education at Harpur (1964-68). It was the height of the counterculture, and the campus was sometimes called "Berkeley East." There was a volatile mix of upstate and
downstate students, including many brilliant and bohemian Jewish radicals from New York City. I was a fanatical student but also a prankster: I was put on probation for a semester for 39 stunts, culminating in damage to University property when I drew a question mark in shaving cream on a hall counselor's door (it dissolved the varnish). At Commencement, President G. Bruce Dearing announced that I, as the valedictorian, had only
one B (from my favorite teacher, poet Milton Kessler) and that I was the first known second-generation Harpur graduate.

It was a tremendous thrill to learn that Keri Mastro, the first winner of the Paglia-Colapietro Memorial Scholarship, is not only a resident of my hometown of Endicott but a graduate of
Union-Endicott High School, from which my parents and my aunts and uncles also graduated. My sister Lenora Paglia and I were so happy to meet Keri in person and to wish her the best of luck for the future!

Thank you for giving!

Keri Mastro received the Paglia-Colapietro Memorial Scholarship, which will be awarded annually based on academic merit to a full-time student of Italian-American descent, with preference for a resident of Broome, Chenango or Onondaga county in New York.

"I was so truly honored and grateful to receive the scholarship and be the first to receive it," says Mastro, a junior majoring in biology. "This scholarship serves as an immense help to offset some of the financial costs of attending college."

Mastro hopes to earn a master's degree in teaching. She works as a teaching assistant at The Learning Center at St. Anthony of
Padua in Endicott, N.Y., and volunteers in the community through her church.

"I value my academics, but I also truly value helping others," she says. "One of my aspirations involves giving back to my educational institution and to future students. That's very important to me, to help others in their success as much as I can. ...

"My education at Binghamton University will always be a fundamental aspect of my success."

Last Updated: 1/20/17