Setting Up a Scholarship was the Best Decision he Ever Made

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Grace Merritt

2 min read

Peter Petrella with students Justin Guinta ’25 (CLAS) and Mirsha Pierre ’24 (CLAS), the current recipients of his scholarship.

 

When Peter Petrella graduated from high school in Hartford, a local man named Lewis Fox gave him a scholarship.

Petrella was grateful for the scholarship, which went a long way toward helping to pay for college. But he was even more struck by the idea that an ordinary person could create a scholarship.

“As a young, inexperienced son of working-class parents, I never realized one could do that,” Petrella says. “I knew nothing about how you fund a scholarship or that you could set up scholarships to honor somebody. That stuck with me forever.”

Fifty years later, Petrella set up his own scholarship, inspired by the one he got years ago. His endowed UConn scholarship honors the legacy of his late wife, Linda Louro Petrella ’78 (CLAS), who lost her life to cancer at age 48. Brilliant, kind, and hardworking, she was the first woman in the history of the city of Springfield, Massachusetts, to be named director of city planning.

“Creating this legacy for Linda was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Petrella says. “It has allowed me to keep Linda’s memory alive in a tangible and meaningful way. Instead of dwelling on the sorrow of her loss, I have created what I believe to be a powerful force for good.”

The scholarship is a permanent tribute to her life and is already making an impact. It has supported 22 students since it was started in 2009. One of the current recipients, Justin Guinta ’25 (CLAS), says the scholarship means the world to him.

“This scholarship has allowed me to continue chasing my dream to be a part of the first generation in my family to graduate from college,” Guinta says. “It has removed barriers and allowed me to dive head-first into my holistic education in translation, criminal psychology, and public policy. I have been allowed to focus more on my studies rather than the financial burdens associated with attending college.”

Besides helping students, the scholarship has had a profound effect on Petrella as well.

“One of the things that creating a scholarship did for me was to emphasize the importance, the validity, and the power of philanthropy,” he says. “I never really thought of that, but this has helped me grow as a human being too.”

Petrella, of West Hartford, graduated from Purdue University and earned a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University. He retired several years ago after a long career as a computer trainer at UConn’s School of Social Work, a job he loved. He was also an adjunct professor, teaching a course on the implications of computers in social services.

To show his appreciation for UConn, he also created a second scholarship, the Peter Petrella Fellowship for the School of Social Work. He established that scholarship through a program UConn offers that allows employees to pay monthly to create their own scholarships. His fellowship supports graduate students in the School of Social Work.

Reflecting back, Petrella said his philanthropy all started with that scholarship from Lewis Fox.

“In a way, I’ve also created a legacy for Lewis Fox. After all, he inspired me to do this many years after his passing,” Petrella says. “Through these endeavors, I hope others are inspired to embark on their own philanthropic journeys.”

Find out how you can create your own scholarship by contacting Juliana Bohland at [email protected] or (860) 931-6659.

Donate to the Linda Louro Petrella ’78 Endowed Scholarship Fund.

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