Sherry Brown-Marfuggi met her late husband, Joseph Marfuggi ’63 (CLAS), at a party hosted by mutual friends. They struck up a conversation and found they had a lot in common. After the party, Sherry found herself thinking about Joe, and decided to take what was an unusual action for her: she asked him out.
“I liked Joe a lot, so I called him up and asked, ‘What do you think of women asking men out on dates?’” Sherry recalls with a laugh. “Joe said, ‘I think that’s okay,’ so I asked him, he said yes, and we made a date.”
Sherry and Joe hit it off. Both were involved in state and local politics, and she says that having a mutual understanding of this type of work helped them thrive as a couple. Though neither was from Connecticut—Joe was born and raised in Vermont while Sherry hails from Michigan—both loved the city of Hartford, where they made their home.
Joe dedicated his professional and personal life to serving Hartford’s vibrant community and he believed in the city’s potential—even at a time when others didn’t. Through his work as the driving force behind Riverfront Recapture and other efforts, he became known as someone who got things done.
“As people got to know Joe, they learned that he wouldn’t tell you something was going to get done unless it was going to get done,” Sherry says. “He never made promises he couldn’t keep. People trusted him.”
A proud UConn alumnus, Joe was particularly excited about UConn Hartford, as it combined his love for UConn with his passion for Hartford. When he became ill, he and Sherry spoke often about his desire to support UConn Hartford, and the urban and community studies program in particular. When Joe passed away in 2018, Sherry knew that the best way she could honor his legacy was by creating a scholarship in his name.
“Joe was so excited about the urban and community studies program,” Sherry says. “Creating the scholarship was the first thing I did [after Joe passed].”
Sherry established the Joseph R. Marfuggi Memorial Scholarship Fund for Leadership in Urban and Community Studies, which supports undergraduate students who are majoring in urban and community studies at UConn Hartford. She hopes the scholarship will help inspire leaders who will go on to effect positive change for urban communities the way Joe did for Hartford.
“Joe embodied the word leader. He uplifted everyone around him,” she says.
Scholarship recipient Nathan Simpson ’21 (CLAS), who was born and raised in New Britain, chose UConn Hartford for its location and affordability, and was particularly drawn to the urban and community studies program. He says that the scholarship brought him a sense of relief in his final semester.
“The scholarship was the last piece of the puzzle. It filled in a lot of the gaps and let me graduate without a crippling amount of debt,” says Nathan, who plans to pursue his master’s in public administration in the future. “It allowed me to flip the last page in the book of my college education and move on to what’s next.”
In 2021, Sherry further honored Joe by naming a room after him on the UConn Hartford campus. This recognition felt fitting, she says, because of how much UConn Hartford meant to Joe.
“Joe believed in Hartford, he believed in UConn, and he believed in UConn Hartford,” Sherry says. “I wish he were here to see all this. But I’m sure he is, wherever he is.”