UConn helped her envision an extraordinary career. Now she’s giving back.

Grace Merritt

2 min read

From serving in the military to her long career in the U.S. Public Health Service, Angela Martinelli has dedicated her life to helping others.

Even now in retirement, Martinelli ’85 MSN has been volunteering. She gives Covid-19 vaccines at a local hospital and, until the pandemic put a hold on them, travels around the world on mission trips to provide reconstructive surgery to children with cleft lips and cleft palates.

Perhaps not surprisingly, she is also looking ahead to see how she can help future generations. She plans to leave a bequest to UConn that will both help students in the military and improve the environment. Specifically, her bequest will create a scholarship for students in the U.S. Reserves and will provide long-term funding for research at the UConn Institute of the Environment.

The daughter of first-generation factory workers, Martinelli grew up in Waterbury, Connecticut, where she worked as a teen in her cousin’s Italian bakery. She says her time at UConn was an eye-opener that changed the trajectory of her life from local to global.

“What I recall most vividly was the influence my professors and classmates had on my thinking,” she said. “They helped me envision a future outside of the ordinary and made me realize that nursing was my passport to the world and a better life. My eyes were opened to new and endless possibilities and adventures.”

After earning her master’s in nursing at UConn, she was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force. She ended up in the U.S. Army, stationed in San Francisco. She later transferred to the U.S. Army Reserves and earned her doctorate at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. researching the environmental and health effects of tobacco smoke.

Then she went on to build a career in the U.S. Public Health Service, where she managed biomedical and scientific grants and contracts and worked in the Office of the Surgeon General. Periodically, she was deployed to help in national emergencies, such as the 9/11 attacks, where she treated first responders at the scene.

When establishing her bequest, Martinelli said she wanted to support students in the Reserves because she, herself, had received scholarship support as a doctoral student in the Reserves. She said students in the Reserves generally don’t have as much financial assistance available to them as do students on active duty through the GI bill. In addition to the scholarship, part of her bequest will support another passion: the environment. It will fund research and programs at the Institute for the Environment to support biodiversity, clean air and water, and food security.

“My hope is to, in some small way, provide competitive grant support to foster multidisciplinary research and provide funding for students, faculty, government agencies and to some degree, the public, to come together to move the science forward,” she said.

 

Jonathan at an event in Hartford CT
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