New scholarship honors former professor


courtesy of Judy Orlando

Eugene D. Sapadin

A new scholarship for humanities students is soon to be offered at Johnson State College. The Vermont State Colleges board of trustees recently created and approved the Eugene D. Sapadin Memorial Scholarship Fund in honor of former JSC Professor of Humanities Eugene Sapadin.

Sapadin taught at JSC for 39 years before retiring in 2011. He died at the age of 73 on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, at the Vermont Respite House in Williston.

JSC Director of Development and Alumni Relations Lauren Philie says that it is exciting to have this scholarship fund in honor of Sapadin because he was such a beloved professor. “I talk to alumni all the time who remember taking classes with him and remember him fondly,” says Philie. “Everyone was sad to hear of his passing. Having this created in honor of his memory is a good thing for everyone.”

For something to reach endowment level, the Vermont State Colleges’ policy is that a minimum amount of $10,000 needs to be established first. “We are currently at that minimum and have established endowment level,” says Philie. “Now we are working to grow that endowment, hopefully to $100,000, so that it will spin off enough income every year to provide a substantial scholarship.”

Sapadin’s sisters, Judy Orlando and Eleanor Mason, made the initial $10,000 donation to reach endowment level for the new scholarship fund. “I wanted to do it to help my brother haunt his favorite haunt,” says Orlando. “My brother was part of the college for such a long time. We want to keep him around forever.”

According to Philie, the plan to grow the scholarship will begin with advertising it to JSC alums and Sapadin’s friends and family through monthly newsletters, and additional sources.

JSC Associate Professor of Writing and Literature Tyrone Shaw says that it’s feasible to work on raising enough money to fully endow this new scholarship. “Gene was, as anyone who knew him or experienced him in class knows, unique, outrageous, unpredictable, irascible, incredibly witty — a brilliant teacher,” says Shaw. “A rough calculation would put the number of students who had the pleasure of a Sapadin course in the thousands.”

Citing harsh economic realities for many college students, Orlando says it is important that the fund have enough money to provide substantial scholarships. “We hope that the Johnson community will help us to grow Gene’s endowment to an amount where it can offer meaningful scholarships on an annual basis,” she says. “We think my brother, whose generosity was legendary in his own family, would love to help his Johnson family as well. If we could grow the fund to $100,000, or more, Johnson could award at least $5,000 in scholarships every year, and my brother’s work would be honored. That would be the best haunting we can think of.”

When asked what she thought JSC meant to her brother, Orlando replied, “He would say a living, but he would mean a calling. At Johnson, he had students he treasured, colleagues he loved, and minds he tickled and inspired. That’s a meaningful life, and one worth memorializing. I was touched and warmed by the testimonials and rollicking good stories that Gene’s students, friends, and colleagues related during his memorial at JSC, and I hope that those who gave voice to them will help to give meaning to his endowment.”

Shaw says that Sapadin’s retirement and subsequent death has left a void at the college, for him and others on the faculty and staff. “We were so lucky to have him here, and I miss him every day,” he says. “Not having Sapadin dropping in to say howdy, to provoke the most fascinating and frequently bizarre conversations, is a big loss. I loved those conversations . . . I loved him, and I am certainly not alone in this.”

The scholarship will be available for undergraduate students majoring in humanities. Applicants must have good academic standing, and must have taken at least one philosophy or ethics course. A handwritten essay must be presented, as well as demonstrated financial need.

Each year the recipient will be chosen by the humanities department faculty, with the assistance of one full-time professor from the writing and literature department. A committee will be formed to review the essays and applications.

For donations and additional inquiries regarding the Eugene D. Sapadin Memorial Scholarship Fund, call JSC’s development office at 802-635-1241 or 802-635-1241.