Scholarship fund honors student
Friends and family of Matthew Scarpati have donated more than $28,000 to start a scholarship fund in memory of the 19-year-old UB economics student who dreamed of getting MBA and law degrees before he was struck and killed by a Harley Davidson last year.
The Matthew Scarpati Endowed Scholarship Fund will enable the College of Arts and Sciences to offer annual awards of about $1,000 to male students who have completed their freshman year at UB and have chosen economics as their major.
Scarpati, an avid cyclist and athlete who played soccer and lacrosse in high school, was fixing a flat tire on his bike on a path near his Long Island home last July—the summer before his sophomore year—when a drunk motorcyclist traveling at high speed hit and fatally wounded him, his mother, Lynn Scarpati, says.
When Matthew’s friends learned of the scholarship fund, they rushed to offer their support. Members of his UB fraternity, Pi Lambda Phi, have sold wristbands and raffled an iPod touch to raise money for the scholarship and spread awareness about the dangers of drunk driving. They spent fall and the first days of spring semester planning the Matthew Scarpati Memorial Walk, a 5-kilometer event on March 28 that attracted hundreds of participants and brought in nearly $3,000 in donations, said Paul Weingart, the 2009-10 Pi Lambda Phi vice president. A gift from the Student Association funded the purchase of commemorative T-shirts that attendees received upon registration.
“I was just at a loss of words when I saw everyone come,” said Weingart, a junior media study major. “The walk was two laps around Putnam Way on North Campus, and on one of the long stretches of road, you could see kids walking and wearing the walk T-shirts from the Student Union all the way down to the Natural Sciences Complex. I had no words to describe how I felt. I was very proud. And I really wished Matt could have been there to see what we were doing.”
“Matthew was a good friend. The fundraising efforts just show we didn’t forget about him. We’re going to remember him on campus,” says David Epstein, a fraternity brother and sophomore studying communication. Other students who helped organize the walk, which the fraternity hopes to make an annual event, included Nick Adams, Karan Kapoor and Trevor Titley, Epstein says.
In life, Scarpati was a serious scholar and independent thinker who reflected, in journal writings, on his education. Teachers who encouraged thought and exploration—those who refused to tell students what to believe—left a positive impression on him. While most classmates leaned toward Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, he preferred John McCain.
Before he died, Scarpati was working as a doorman for a high-end building in Manhattan. There, Lynn Scarpati says, her son came into frequent contact with people who intrigued and inspired him: current and former politicians, authors, attorneys and hedge-fund managers.
“Just because Matt’s dead doesn’t mean his dreams are,” Lynn Scarpati says. “And that’s our goal—to let other kids share those dreams.”
“Generosity comes in all sizes…You do not have to be wealthy to inspire and to be a donor,” Lynn Scarpati says. “Matt’s fraternity brothers and the Greek life brothers and sisters are proof that they can make a difference.”
To donate to the scholarship fund, click here.