Saccomanno’s efforts have aided 4,000 students

One common question I get asked when I’m talking to various groups is “What is the biggest challenge facing western Colorado?

Invariably I say, “Growth — and all the change that is coming with it.” This place is growing in so many different ways.

Some of the symptoms of that growth will appear on our ballot this November — namely the city’s public safety initiative and the school district’s need for new facilities. These are basic fundamental needs of a growing community.

However, there are other things that are growing just as fast — many below the radar. One that I would like to shine a little light on is the Saccomanno Higher Education Foundation — a wonderful gift left to us by a great man, Dr. Geno Saccomanno. While he was alive, Saccomanno recieved international accolades for the work he did at St. Mary’s studying the links between uranium exposure and lung cancer. He saved lives and his work is still helping people, eight years after his death.

Another gift he left is his lovely family that still values his heritage of philanthropy.  His wife Virginia and three daughters — Linda, Lenna and Carol — sit on the board of the foundation along with several members of the business community.

As Daily Sentinel publisher, I have the honor to sit on that board. (Dr. Saccomanno enjoyed this newspaper and extended a permanent seat on the board to its publisher.) Other members are the heads of St. Mary’s Hospital, Mesa State College, School District 51 and the College of Eastern Utah.

The foundation was set up to provide scholarships to promising students in need of a little extra help getting through college. It is funded by an endowment that is overseen by the board and managed by Alpine Trust & Asset Management.

This year was an unusual board meeting, as it took place the day after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch was sold to Bank of America. With much of the foundation’s endowment invested in securities, we discussed at length the ramifications in the coming year and how to best mitigate any downturn in the market. As the endowment has regularly outperformed the broader market, things look to be in good shape. But, it dawned on me during the discussion that we weren’t just talking about money. We were talking about a legacy and the future of thousands of men and women who may be recipients of Saccomanno scholarships over the years.

This year marked a milestone. More than 4,000 students have now been given scholarships totalling more than $7 million.

Many people said Geno Saccomanno was an angel. You hear it in the stories told about him. You see it in the eyes of his family. And, more than anything, you feel it sitting around the table at his foundation’s board meeting. It’s almost as though he’s there.

Anyone who spent a life helping others, and whose good works continue even after their death, can be counted among the greatest of men. Although I never met him, he left even me the honor of serving on the board of his foundation and giving hundreds of students every year the chance of a better life. I, too, would call him an angel. I’m sure the foundation’s 4,000-plus recipients would agree.


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