Villanovans create positive change everywhere life takes them. In these challenging times, the entire Villanova community — students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni alike — has shown the true power of the Augustinian values of Veritas, Unitas, Caritas.
We want to thank and recognize all those serving on the front lines and offering their time and resources to help others. Know a positive change-maker? Share your story of a Villanovan making a positive impact in their community.
52+ Weeks into the Pandemic #NovaZoom with 2007-10 Graduates Still Going Strong
Nick Sampogna ’07 CLAS created life-long friendships during his time at Villanova and knew he had a strong network of alumni for support. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit one year ago, he turned to that tight-knit group of college friends to find joy in an otherwise tough time for all. He couldn’t have imagined how much deeper those connections would become as a result of one small idea.
“Amy Gallo ’07 sent a text message to a group of us suggesting that we all get on a Zoom call to catch up,” said Sampogna. “The chat quickly became an email to our extended ‘NovaFam,’ including Villanovans ranging from the Class of 2007 to 2010.”
In March 2020, Sampogna and Gallo set up the first Thursday night #NovaZoom and the appointment has stood every week since.
Though the turnout varies week to week, there are usually 10 Villanovans on any given #NovaZoom. On occasion, numbers have reached closer to 20 alumni plus significant others and children. Since the tradition began, the group has celebrated 10 birthdays, typically with a fun theme, as well as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.
Sampogna recalls that most of his ‘NovaFam’ met during the first months of freshman year during orientation or in the dorms. Over the years the group grew to include new friends gained through various music and theater groups on campus including Villanova Singers, Voices and Villanova Student Musical Theatre (VSMT).
Prior to March 2020, the group was able to connect, but not with the consistency they have found with their weekly #NovaZoom calls. According to Sampogna, “We’ve honestly never had a problem keeping in touch. I think we just made the commitment to remain a fixture in each other’s lives. Pre-COVID, we were able to rely on in-person gatherings like life milestones, group vacations, on-campus events and basketball games. A few of us are even godparents to each other’s children!”
When asked if they will continue their #NovaZoom past the one-year mark, Sampogna said “I don’t see why not! We’d love to resume regular in-person hangouts once it is safe to do so, but I think we’ve all enjoyed the ritual of grabbing a drink and spending time together each week.”
Throughout the last year, Sampogna and the members of the #NovaZoom have had the opportunity to reflect on their time at Villanova as well as what it means to be a Villanovan.
“After polling the group on what it meant to be a Villanovan, the word that came up most often was Community. During the early days of the pandemic, it was easy to feel isolated, but being a part of something greater than ourselves—the Villanova Community—was powerful. It all goes back to a key University value: Caritas. It’s the best word to capture our bond as a group. Whether we met in a dorm, on a stage, or while chanting the boog-aloo, we found each other and fostered our relationships with a shared respect, compassion and kinship. Those are the values that have sustained through this incredibly challenging time.”
Mike Barr ’07; Matt Cannon ’07, ’08 MS; Mike Denny ’07; Kevin Gallagher ’07, ’08 MS; Amy Gallo ’07; Patty Gillin ’07; Brian Hickel ’09 MS; Dan McFadden ’07; David McFadden ’09, ’14 MBA; Sara Jane McFadden (Leier) ’10; Nicholas Medaglio ’07; Adriane Reilly (Bernabei) ’09; Brendan Reilly ’07; Kimberly Reilly ’07, ’09 MA; Kate Reynolds ’09; Nicholas Sampogna ’07; Jenny Sweeney ’07; Lauren Zigarelli ’07
Interested in starting a #NovaZoom with your former classmates? Download our exclusive Villanova-themed Zoom Backgrounds!
Frankki Romano '15 CLAS Creates GoFundMe Page to Feed Doctors and Nurses on the Frontlines of NYC’s COVID-19 Response
When Frankki Romano ’15 CLAS heard nurses on the frontlines of New York City’s COVID-19 fight needed help, she took action to aid her community. Romano heard from Villanova classmates Christie Long ’15 FCN and Meghan Taylor ’15 VSB, both nurses at Memorial Sloane Kettering, that the hectic situation in hospitals left nurses struggling to find time to eat during their marathon shifts.
What started out as food deliveries paid for by Romano to three units at Sloan Kettering staffed by fellow Villanova alumni nurses Elizabeth “Lizzie” Lee ’17, Noelle Trattou ’17 and Jill Campbell ’17, grew in to a GoFundMe page that raised $22,500 in the first week of April to feed doctors and nurses.
After another Villanova alumnus and friend of Romano’s heard about those initial food deliveries, he asked how he could help reach even more Villanovans in healthcare, leading to the GoFundMe page launch on April 1. The page was initially shared with friends and Romano’s colleagues at Morgan Stanley, with a fundraising goal of $2,500. Then the administrators of the Instagram accounts @NovaNationer and @NovaInsider heard about her efforts and shared the GoFundMe link on their pages. @NovaInsider administrator Anthony Fradella ’14 helped Romano create the Nurse and Doctor Nomination form to track the numerous food requests being received. Their collaborative efforts resulted in an outpouring of support from the Villanova community.
As of April 8, the fund has paid for 50 food orders; Romano is working with two New York City vendors to deliver individually wrapped meals at a cost of $6 per-person to hospital units ranging in size from 15 to 100 employees. So far, there have been food deliveries to 30 units staffed by Villanova nurses, and several connected with Morgan Stanley, in New York City. By Easter Sunday, meals will have been delivered to a total of 1,500 hospital workers.
The initiative has grown beyond New York City, with orders delivered this week to the unit of Claire Nugent '14 at UNC Medical Center in North Carolina and the unit of Erin O'Connor '15 at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco. Requests for units staffed by Villanova nursing alumni in PA, MA, DC, DE and OH will be fulfilled within the next few weeks once local food vendors are identified.
To nominate a Villanova nurse or Villanova doctor for food deliveries via this initiative, please fill out the Nova Nurse and Doctor Nomination Form.
Liz Field Bernich '94 VSB Supports Local Restaurants and Fuels Frontline Healthcare Workers through FLAG
In communities across the country, hospital workers and small business owners are facing unprecedented challenges. Liz Field Bernich ’94 VSB came up with a way to help both.
Bernich launched FLAG (Front Line Appreciation Group), a movement to support local restaurants by working with them to feed healthcare workers on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19. What started with a Facebook post calling her community in Chatham, NJ, to action has now spread nationwide, with more than 70 FLAG chapters in more than 21 states.
Bernich teamed up with Gina McGuire of neighboring Madison, NJ, to create FLAG. In its first two weeks, FLAG has raised an incredible $100,000+ to feed 150-200 nurses, doctors, techs, security guards, cleaning staff and other hospital workers per day in collaboration with local restaurants. So far, FLAG has pushed back $20,000 to local restaurants and served more than 3,000 meals. Bernich said their efforts will continue as long as it is necessary.
Communities seeking to organize their own FLAG chapters and individuals who would like to send a gift certificate or tray of food from their favorite local restaurant to the ICU or ER department of their local hospital can visit FLAG2020.org.
Former Villanova Lacrosse Player Goes from Field to Frontlines of COVID-19 Battle
Around this time last year, Christine Graziano ’19 FCN was wrapping up her senior year after balancing her time at Villanova between the lacrosse team and rigorous nursing curriculum. Today, the former student-athlete is a hospital nurse on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19 in Morristown, New Jersey. According to Christine, she learned as a Villanova student-athlete to never back down from a challenge and applied this mindset in volunteering to join the fight against COVID-19. She credits her family, coworkers, and former Villanova teammates for their encouragement and support during these tough times. CBS Philly has more on Christine’s story.
Lori Gildea '09 VSB Pivots Business to Make Antimicrobial, Reusable Masks
In 2018, Lori Gildea ’09 VSB made the leap from a successful career in pharmaceuticals to launching her own business, ThePureBag®, a line of patent-pending antimicrobial products. Now, with the onset of COVID-19, Lori has made another leap by pivoting her business to produce antimicrobial, reusable masks that are both comfortable and effective.
Lori earned an MBA from the Villanova School of Business in 2009 and her entrepreneurial journey began in 2018 after she experienced a severe health care that her doctors believed resulted from exposure to germs from her gym bag. The harrowing experience inspired Lori to create a bag that is not only stylish, functional and sustainable, but also repels bacteria and other microorganisms that can make people sick. She and her daughter Jessica launched ThePureBag® line with the mantra, “Spread Love, Not Germs.”
In starting her own business, Lori sought advice and counsel from Villanova’s Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship (ICE) Institute. She also collaborated with various Villanova departments to complete “use and comparison” studies that found bacterial growth on ThePureBag® products was significantly less than that on typical cotton materials over a three-day period.
She saw an opportunity to help others by using her antimicrobial product platform to springboard in to face masks and created the Pure Mask®. Available for individual and wholesale purchases, the Pure Mask® is, like all other ThePureBag® products, fully American made. Mask fabric is milled in North Carolina, while masks are made in Pennsylvania. Learn more about the Pure Mask®.
Story submitted by Terry Delaney '83 CLAS
Kim Brickner Denicore '92 VSB Creates Grassroots Movement through "Mask Makers of Doylestown" Facebook Group
“Kim Brickner Denicore ’92 VSB lives in my neighborhood in Doylestown and has been doing something amazing to help with the efforts to fight the coronavirus. In March, she has created a Facebook group called Mask Makers of Doylestown that now more than 900 people who are making masks for hospitals, nursing homes, traveling nurses, long-term care facilities, etc.
It’s a total grassroots effort that has evolved tremendously since late March. The group connects those who have fabric, to those who can cut it for the pattern (like myself), those that will sew the mask and finally delivery to the facilities. It’s amazing. As of March 30, the group has sourced, sewn, and distributed almost 2,000 masks around the Philadelphia area and suburbs!”
Story submitted by Katherine (Clay) Greeley ’04 VSB
Club of Greater Washington DC Sponsors Meals for Alumni on the Frontlines Using Villanova-Led Businesses
In times of need, Villanovans answer the call to help one another. As a way to illustrate their pride and gratitude for Villanova Nurses working on the frontlines of COVID-19, as well as support local businesses in their community, the Villanova University Club of Greater Washington DC worked with other alums to quickly spearhead an impressive initiative to sponsor and deliver meals to area hospitals.
As the Club sought out opportunities to include Villanova-led businesses in this effort, they partnered with The DC Restaurant Group, led by alumni Eric Heidenberger’07 VSB and Georgetown Events, led by Bo Blair ’94 CLAS. Working with Eric , Bo and their teams, the Club ordered the meals from their restaurants throughout the DC region.
Within the past two weeks, the Club has sponsored meals for more than 200 healthcare workers—including 16 fellow Villanovans—across several hospitals in the DC region. Club volunteers have then stepped in to deliver the meals to healthcare workers, along with Villanova masks, to the alumni.
Doug Guller '95 VSB Launches New Company to Create Connectivity Through Food and Community
Doug Guller ’95 VSB, a restaurant owner in Austin, Texas, recently announced the launch of a new company, Parsley, which aims to build the world’s largest food community/platform of cooks and consumers. The idea predated the current coronavirus pandemic, but the crisis brought it to the forefront with restaurants and cooks facing significant financial impact. For that reason, Guller felt the need to move the plan along more quickly.
“Although Parsley was not slated to launch until later this year, with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we knew this was the time to create a sense of connectivity through food and community by launching a platform that was easy to use for both cooks and eaters. We believe Parsley will provide a much-needed supplemental income for many people,” said Guller.
Guller has been working on the idea for over two years – his focus being to further local business, as well as combat hunger. Within Parsley, cooks will be able to register for a $25 fee and be able to open their own business in their home and share their culinary offerings with others. Eaters will pay a $2 service fee of which half will go directly towards a local organization such as Meals on Wheels or the Central Texas Food Bank in Austin.
Through the app, one can discover local meals by preference and geographic location. Categories will then be filtered by preferred home cook and a ratings system. Cooks will also be able to stay connected to their community through personalized announcements and weekly menu shares. Eaters can follow their preferred chefs and build plans based around their individual needs.
The Parsley App will be available later this summer. For more information, visit www.parsley.com.
Villanova Nursing Grad Student Appears on Ellen as Part of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital’s “#SwabSquad”
Villanova Nursing graduate student Ana Silva recently appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show with her colleagues at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Jefferson was the first hospital in Philadelphia to offer a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site, staffed by Ana and a group of nurses who have dubbed themselves the “#SwabSquad.” After a video of some of the nurses dancing to Ciara’s “Level Up” went viral, they were invited for an interview on Ellen where they discussed the challenges of being on the frontlines of COVID-19 and how they have bonded as a work family. Ana was also interviewed by KYW on how health care workers are adjusting to COVID-19.
Villanova Nurses Respond to COVID-19
"While the worst is still ahead of us, the kindness I have received from the entire VU community has kept me fueled, and I will continue to fight for my patients and the people of NYC. I’ve never felt more proud to be a Wildcat." -Amanda Cassidy '18 BSN, RN (Pictured; photo from Instagram, posted with permission)
Read about the lived experience of Villanova Nurses on the front lines of this battle in various areas of our nation. This collection is a work in progress and will be updated as more stories are shared with us.
Villanova Engineers Repond to a Pandemic
In March 2020—when everything changed—College of Engineering faculty and alumni began sharing their perspectives and their expertise on COVID-19. They have presented computational models in the search for an inhibitor; partnered with Philadelphia area hospitals to develop emergency ventilators; wrote about the potential for blockchain to help medical facilities stem the spread of the disease and shared their expectations for the global economy in light of the crisis. Read their stories.
Dave Pacitti ’89 CLAS Leads Siemens Healthineers in the Fight Against COVID-19
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies are contributing innovative solutions to response efforts. Once such example is Siemens Healthineers, with a Villanovan leading the way.
As The Siemens Foundation committed $1.5 million to community health centers in 12 U.S. cities, Dave Pacitti ’89 CLAS, Siemens Foundation Board of Directors member, President of Siemens Medical Solutions USA, Inc. and Head of the Americas for Siemens Healthineers, emphasized the importance of ensuring patients and families have access to care at this critical time. The commitment by the Siemens Foundation will allow the health centers to utilize the funding for their greatest needs.
Additionally, to aid in the fight against COVID-19, Siemens Healthineers expanded its infectious disease testing by developing a laboratory-based total antibody test, which will help provide an accurate view of the disease progression in patients. To read more on the test, view the Siemens Healthineers press release.
Staff Member Emily Marbot Creates “hEARoheadbands” to Take the Pressure Off Nurses’ Sore Ears While They Fight COVID-19
After hearing from her sister Clare (Kohler) Bennett ’12 FCN, a nurse at the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania, that the protective face masks she was wearing for such long periods of time were causing blistering and pain around the ears, Emily Marbot decided to take action.
With her sister in mind, Marbot, Director of Talent Management for University Advancement, started making what she calls “hEARoheadbands” by sewing buttons onto headbands so that they could serve as the attachment for a mask—relieving pressure and friction on the ears. Although Marbot and her wife made the first 50 in mid-March to give to Bennett’s colleagues, the nurses quickly asked where they could find more. After a social media post about hEARoheadbands gained immediate traction, Marbot realized how significant this need was for nurses on the front lines.
After receiving such a high volume of requests—and not wanting to say no to anyone in need—Marbot put out a call for donations to use for supplies and shipping. “The first $500 in donations came from my University Advancement colleagues who are so generous and supportive,” she said. Then, through a connection with Julian Rizzuto ’10 VSB, International Marketing at Conair Corporation, Marbot was able to connect with the Senior Vice President of Conair who leads the Scunci brand division and ultimately contributed 300 headbands to their efforts.
Marbot says she and her wife make 30-60 hEARoheadbands per day, with some help from a small number of family members and close friends, always remaining mindful of the need to minimize cross-contamination risks. She includes a personalized thank you note within each package of headbands to express gratitude to first responders for their bravery.
As of early April, Marbot has received 88 orders totaling 839 hEARoheadbands from more than 60 hospitals/units across ten states.
Bob Reiff '16 COE Works 24/7 to Restore Abandoned Hospital for Use as a COVID-19 Relief Hospital
"Bob Reiff '16 COE now works for Turner Construction in Chicago, IL. Recently, Bob has been serving as a Project Engineer on one of the COVID-19 relief hospitals that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has tasked Turner with building. Bob's team is working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to successfully restore an abandoned hospital in Elgin, IL, to a fully functional 'Alternate Care Facility' to help support the influx of patients needed treatment for COVID-19. The goal is to complete the project within 1 month after construction has begun!"
Story submitted by Joe Ziebell '18 COE
Scott Seward '08 COE Offers Custom-Made PPE to a Nova Nurse and her Boston Children's Hospital Colleagues
"I graduated from Villanova University in 2008, earning my BSN. During my time [at Villanova], I met some amazing individuals that I still call my friends and who continue to amaze me. I currently work as a nurse at Boston Children's Hospital in its cardiac intensive care unit. Like many hospitals, we are facing the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A great friend from Villanova, Scott Seward '08 COE, asked if my hospital was under the same constraints. He showed me what he thought he and his team at Burton Snowboards could develop for PPE using their 3D printing capabilities. I forwarded his picture of the product through the Boston Children's teams, and they have moved forward with production. The Villanova Engineer is helping protect this Villanova Nurse through the COVID-19 pandemic. Friends looking out for friends. NOVA NATION!"
Story submitted by Lauren Morrison Shaw '08 FCN (Photo of Scott Seward from Instagram)
Caring for COVID-19 ICU Patients with Don Emory ’71 COE
For the past 14 years, Don Emery ’71 COE has worked at Chester County Hospital, with much of that time as medical director of the intensive care unit. Although Don graduated from Villanova’s College of Engineering in 1971, he felt a calling toward medicine and began medical school six years later at the age of 27. Now, at 70, he is on the front lines of the second major health crisis of his career and spending more than 100 hours a week caring for patients, many of whom are severely ill with COVID-19 symptoms. Don spent the beginning of his medical career at San Francisco General Hospital during the emergence of the AIDS epidemic, during which he diagnosed countless cases of the disease. Today, he sees echoes of the AIDS epidemic in COVID-19. Read more about Don’s story from The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Chris Josephs '18 VSB Teams Up with Boston Boutique to Make "Headbands for Heroes"
Chris Josephs '18 VSB started a company called Customsportssleeves that makes sports compression apparel. As COVID-19 cancelled all sports, the business had the capabilities to make products that could make a difference, so "I teamed up with a local Boston boutique and started making 'Headbands for Heroes': a headband with buttons sewn in to protect nurses' ears while wearing the mask. As of March 31, we have sold more than 3,000 headbands, mostly through social media," Chris said. Read more about this innovative initiative.
Julie Wischusen '94 FCN and her husband, Bob, are "Silent Heroes" During the COVID-19 Crisis
To do her part in the fight against COVID-19, Julie Wischusen '94, a registered nurse and mother of five, has been serving as a volunteer nurse assisting in a drive-thru coronavirus testing facility in the parking lot of Kean University. For 20 hours a week, she has been standing outside in a surgical gown and mask and "staring into the faces of scared neighbors through what seems like a never ending line of car windows trying to tackle an enemy that has no face."
Meanwhile, her husband, Bob, the radio play-by-play voice of the New York Jets and a top broadcaster at ESPN, has been making an impact of his own to their neighbors in New Jersey through a GoFundMe fundraiser called "Let's Feed Our Heroes."
Read the full story written by Frankie Taddeo '97 CLAS, as featured on SI.com
Megan Boletta, Wife of Alain Boletta '21 EMBA, Makes Personal Protective Equipment Using 3D Printers
Megan Boletta, the Bucks County Intermediate Unit's Fab Lab program coordinator and wife of Alain Boletta '21 EMBA, has utilized the Bucks IU's 3D printers and laser cutter to create face masks and help in the fight against COVID-19. Since the prototype was reviewed and approved at the Bucks County Emergency Operations in early April, Boletta and her team now have the opportunity to produce and distribute more than 200 face shields a week to those working on the front line. Further details about their project can be found on the Yardley Patch.
Story submitted by Jennifer Wiess, Director, Executive MBA Program
Other Stories From Around the Nova Nation
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To share a story of how you or a fellow Wildcat are helping your community, please fill out this form. For updates, additional information and FAQs about the University's response to the coronavirus, please visit our COVID-19 Update page.