Joan Impagliazzo never thought she would make it through her first semester of college, let alone graduate. As an adult student attending college for the first time at age 50, she was terrified, sitting in the back corner of classes trying to go unnoticed. But graduate she did in 1992 from Penn State Brandywine (known then as Penn State Delaware County) with a bachelor's degree in general arts and sciences. So proud was she of her achievement and the happiness it brought her that she started the Joan Impagliazzo Adult Student Scholarship, in order to share her enthusiasm for learning with others like her.
"Going to Penn State Brandywine was one of the best experiences of my life," said Impagliazzo. "It was a wonderful time; an expanding time; a confidence building time. Everyone just made me feel so welcome. While I was there the core of adult learners grew. We started the Adult Student Organization ? The faculty, I think they loved having non-traditional students in their classes because we lived when they did and we knew stuff that they knew. The professors had such a wonderful rapport with the adult students."
Reminiscing about her Brandywine days, Impagliazzo spoke of the joy she felt on commencement day. "One of the happiest feelings that I had when I graduated was that my mother was able to attend," she said. "She lived to be 99—and the fact that she only went to fourth grade in Slovakia gave me such confidence—she had a thirst for knowledge and she was so proud that I went to college and she was able to be there at my graduation. I could never have done it without the wholehearted support and encouragement of my husband and family. They knew I could do it."
Impagliazzo comes from quite a pride of Penn Staters; three generations of Lion's pride to be exact. Several of her children attended the Brandywine and University Park campuses, and one received her master's degree from Penn State Great Valley. Impagliazzo's oldest grandchild, Sam, is now walking the hallways and paths of the Brandywine campus.
While studying at Penn State Brandywine, Impagliazzo was awarded many scholarships which ultimately paid for her education. When she graduated, she decided to start her own scholarship to help other adult students fund their way through college.
"I loved it so much and got so into it that I won a whole lot of scholarships," enthused Impagliazzo. "Winning those scholarships was such a confidence builder. I know so many of the women—they work full-time, they're raising a family, and to afford to go to college is a real hardship. So many could use whatever help they could get. That's why I started it."
In order to be considered for the Impagliazzo scholarship, the individual must be a Penn State Brandywine full-time undergraduate adult student who demonstrates academic success and is involved in activities on and off campus.
Faye Pellicciaro, a corporate communications major, is the 2012 scholarship recipient. She describes herself as a "single empty-nester" with two grown children also pursuing their college and graduate educations.
"I would like to personally thank Ms. Impagliazzo for both her emotional and financial support," said Pellicciaro. "It was a pleasure meeting her at the Scholarship Luncheon back in October. Her supportive nature helped to spur me on in my studies when I was experiencing a lull during the semester."
Pellicciaro's journey to earning her bachelor's degree started nearly 40 years ago at the University of Missouri. But with a move to Philadelphia, marriage, raising a family, divorce and several job layoffs, her dream of a college education was derailed. Today, Pellicciaro is back on track and anticipates walking in her cap and gown in the May 2015 Brandywine Commencement Ceremony ... thanks to a little help from Joan Impagliazzo.