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As Villanova University Announces Third Cohort of O’Toole Family President Scholars, First Cohort Arrives on Campus as Freshmen

Terry and Polly O'Toole
Terry and Polly O'Toole

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Villanova University has announced its third cohort of O’Toole Family Presidential Scholars: Maria Sancha Rivera from Saint Dominic Academy and Jersey City, N.J., and Keith Michael Mathews from Queen of Peace High School and North Arlington, N.J. The O’Toole Family Presidential Scholarship Program at Villanova was established in 2013 through a $10 million gift from alumnus Terence (Terry) O’Toole ’80, and his wife, Paula (Polly). The program identifies students as high school sophomores and provides a system of support to assist them in preparing for entry into, and success during, college.

As Rivera and Mathews begin their junior years at their respective Newark (N.J.) Archdiocesan high schools, the inaugural cohort of O’Toole Family Presidential Scholars, named in 2013, has arrived on the University’s campus as Villanova freshmen. This group includes Maria Alejandra Sarrazola from St. Mary of the Assumption High School and Elizabeth, N.J., Alexander John Alberti from St Peter's Prep and Lyndhurst, N.J., and Mafatta Zahara Janeh from Roselle Catholic High School and Union, N.J.

“We’re thrilled to see the first group of O’Toole Scholars arrive at Villanova,” said Terry O’Toole. “The program is now in full swing, with a great pipeline of high school juniors and seniors and our new freshmen. The next milestone will be our first Villanova graduates!”

The O’Toole family’s 2013 gift established a program to provide a four-year Villanova education for students from the Archdiocese of Newark. This transformational gift affords high-achieving high school students from the Archdiocese of Newark – who currently receive funding for their high school education through The Scholarship Fund for Inner-City Children (SFIC) – the opportunity to receive their college education at Villanova. The gift was part of the University’s $600 million Comprehensive Capital Campaign, “For the Greater Great: The Villanova Campaign to Ignite Change.”

“It is so exciting to welcome our first O’Toole scholars to campus,” said Terry Nance, Associate Vice Provost of Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer. “The O’Toole Family Presidential Scholarship Program is so much more than just making sure that bills are paid. In the true Villanova fashion, the Villanova community opens its arms to our O’Toole scholars providing whatever support each student needs to be successful.”  

Terry O’Toole, the former chair of Villanova’s Board of Trustees and current co-chair of its Comprehensive Capital Campaign, “For the Greater Great: The Villanova Campaign to Ignite Change,” was the recipient of a Presidential Scholarship in 1976 to attend Villanova University. Now, he and his wife, Polly, live in Short Hills, N.J. – 12 miles from Newark – where they are active in the Archdiocese of Newark and SFIC. The opportunity to connect this endowed scholarship program at Villanova with their commitment to the Newark community made the gift all the more fulfilling.

Scholarship and Commitment:

To qualify for the O’Toole Family Presidential Scholarship Program, students must receive funding through SFIC and attend a Newark Archdiocesan High School. Villanova identifies scholarship candidates as sophomores in high school and provides them with a support system uniquely designed by several academic and co-curricular departments at the University to assist students in preparing for entry into, and success during, college. By identifying candidates early on for these unique “Promise Scholarships,” Villanova is able to make a long-term commitment to the students and their education. The program provides students with annual scholarship assistance to support both tuition costs at Villanova and specifically-designed academic, personal and professional support services for each recipient.

“This program is unique in that it identifies the potential of fine young students from the Archdiocese of Newark at an early stage,” said Stephen Merritt, Dean of Enrollment Management at Villanova University. “The O’Toole Scholarship gives them the confidence that their continued successful efforts in the classroom will be recognized by the opportunity to go to college without concern for the associated cost.”

The O’Toole Family Presidential Scholarship helps ensure that a Villanova education is economically accessible for students who demonstrate academic achievement, leadership ability and a potential for future development. The program – combined with projected federal grants and University-funded financial assistance – includes all tuition, room and board, books, institutional fees and the opportunity to study abroad, should the student choose to do so. Sophomore students (from Newark Archdiocesan high schools) interested in the program will be nominated by their high school principal and complete the application process.

System of Support:

Upon selection of the high school students, Villanova works with each of their respective high schools to provide services that will help prepare them for college. The University has dedicated resources within its offices of Enrollment Management and Admissions, Honors Program, Center for Multicultural Affairs and Career Center to support future O’Toole Scholars as soon as they are identified. Upon graduation from high school, the students are accepted into Villanova University as Presidential Scholars and members of the Honors Program.

“In many ways we began the process long before the scholars came to campus, and we will continue to provide transitional services to the scholars as they continue through the University,” added Nance. “Our obligation to all of these scholars is not just to get them into Villanova, but also to see them graduate, successful and ready to take on their next life challenges.  

The O’Toole Family Presidential Scholarship Program engages students in an academic environment where opportunities for community dialogue and educational growth take place both inside and outside of the classroom. The experience is designed to allow students to deepen and broaden their knowledge within Villanova’s distinctive Augustinian community, while also developing their critical and creative thinking skills.

The Program’s commitment of support for O’Toole Scholars incorporates several key areas across campus, including:

  • Honors Program: This program is the academic home for all Presidential Scholars. It offers students a distinct and challenging academic experience, as well as a community marked by care for students’ holistic development. The Honors Program provides a seminar learning model with class sizes restricted to 16 students, individualized support and an opportunity to be part of a community of students that shares experiences in and out of the classroom.
  • Center for Multicultural Affairs: The Center for Multicultural Affairs provides a welcoming atmosphere and services to support the University’s mission of respecting individual differences. O’Toole Scholars will have access to cohesive and comprehensive support to help them realize the full benefits of a Villanova education.
  • Career Center: O’Toole Scholars participate in a professional development readiness program, which will prepare them for college, as well as summer employment and service or leadership training while in high school. Students will receive individualized attention in preparing resumes and interviewing for summer jobs and internships.

A Champion for His Alma Mater:

Terry O’Toole graduated with a degree in economics from the Villanova University School of Business (VSB) in 1980 and is an ardent supporter of the University. In 2007, he endowed the deanship in VSB in honor of his parents, Helen and William O’Toole, helping support VSB’s vision as a premier business school built upon outstanding faculty and academic quality. Additionally, for more than two decades, he has supported the University’s official student newspaper of record, The Villanovan, a publication of which he once served as editor.

The former chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees, O’Toole is co-chair of Villanova’s Capital Campaign. He has also served as a member of the Campaign Organizing Group, Steering Committee, Chairman’s Task Force and the VSB Dean’s Advisory Council.

O’Toole is a co-managing partner of Tinicum, Inc., a private investment partnership based in New York City. Prior to joining Tinicum in 2006, where he manages Tinicum Capital Partners II, L.P., and Tinicum L.P., he spent 21 years at Goldman, Sachs & Co., where he was a partner, member of the investment and partnership committees, and the chief operating officer of the Principal Investment Area (PIA), the private equity investing arm of the firm of which he was a founding member.  

About “For the Greater Great: The Villanova Campaign to Ignite Change”: Villanova launched the public phase of its campaign in October 2013, and to date has raised $450 million toward its $600 million goal. The most ambitious in the University’s 173-year history, the Villanova Campaign to Ignite Change is aimed at cultivating academic innovation across its schools and colleges, investing in recruiting and retaining the finest teacher-scholars, dramatically enhancing financial aid and student opportunities, and continuing to build a premier living-learning environment on the University’s 260-acre campus.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.