Six URI student biologists benefit from memorial scholarship

Six URI student biologists benefit from memorial scholarship KINGSTON, R.I.– October 5, 1999 — URI student Babatunde Ologun of Pawtucket worked all summer but faced a harsh reality in its waning weeks-he was coming up short for school expenses. The sophomore, who wants to be a doctor, recalled worrying about what he was going to do. Then the phone rang. Dr. Stan Cobb, chair of URI’s Biological Sciences Department, was on the line telling Ologun he was selected to receive a Brett Santoro Memorial scholarship. Professor Cobb made five other calls that day to bright and financially needy students studying biological sciences to tell them they also were chosen to receive a scholarship. For student Sheree LaVarge of Waterford, Conn., the scholarship meant she could devote more time to her studies and less time worrying about the two jobs and 6 courses she was juggling. All six scholarships are named for Brett Santoro, a 1997 URI graduate killed in a motorcycle accident in Greenville, R.I. in December 1998. He was 23. “Brett loved biology in high school and loved it at URI. He wanted to be a pharmaceutical salesman,” recalled his father Vic Santoro on the phone from California. Santoro mentioned his son’s fraternity brothers still keep in touch. Brett was president of Lamda Chi Alpha. He also volunteered for the Providence Animal Shelter and was a volunteer firefighter with the Kingston Fire Department. Recalling Brett’s passion for biology, Santoro said, the family decided to establish an endowed scholarship in his name as a way to honor Brett’s memory and to enable a student to make a contribution to the biological sciences. So far, thanks to contributions from individual family members, funds from a family trust, and donations by business associates of Victor Santoro the endowment has risen to $150,000. URI President Robert L. Carothers and Dr. Winifred Brownell, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, recently hosted a donor-recipient luncheon at the president’s home. There, the six recipients met Brett’s grandfather Victor E. Santoro of North Haven, Conn. who said he liked the idea that endowed scholarship would continue into the future. (Interest from the endowment funds the scholarships.) The students also met Brett’s widow, Christina Santoro, of Greenville, R.I., who recalled her time on campus while earning her degree in communication studies in 1997. Christina remembered meeting Brett through her sorority Chi Omega and dating him throughout college. They were married shortly after graduating, in September 1997. The scholarships are a way of remembering Brett, she says. “It reminds you that there is another world and it makes you feel good. Maybe they (the students) will do well in future” she said, quickly adding “I know they will.” Student Sheree LaVarge appeared to sum up the students’ gratitude at the luncheon when she said: “Mr. and Christina Santoro, as you fostered the passion for biology in Brett, you continue to do so today by handing the torch of passion to us. The burning of this torch lights many lives-each of ours, our families, and the lives of those we will impact as professionals. And for this, we say ‘thank you.'” The six Brett Santoro Memorial Scholarship recipients and their hometowns are: Jason Lewis Exeter, R.I. Babtunde Ologun Pawtucket, R.I. James Grogan Warwick, R.I. Sheree LeVarge Waterford, Conn. Melissa Novak Millis, Mass. Kelly Rock Denville, N.J. -xxx- For More Information: Jan Sawyer, 401-874-2116