Maria Adelasia Mattei received a Bachelor of Science from Ursuline College as one of 22 graduates in 1945, with a major in Home Economics and a minor in Chemistry. Mary Della, as she’s known now, was the first person on either side of her family to earn a college degree. This was quite an accomplishment for children of immigrant families and a rare opportunity for a woman in an Italian family.
She didn’t talk much about this milestone, says her son, Dr. Michael Mattei, but “Mom’s yearbooks were always lying around, and there was a picture from her graduation on the vanity in her bedroom, so we were always aware of it.” Along with her husband, Innocente Mattei, Mary Della encouraged all four of her children to complete college degrees.
When Mike, a professor in the W. Fielding Rubel School of Business, started thinking about ways to give back to Bellarmine, where he has worked for 29 years, he and his family decided to honor their mother, now 91, by supporting other first-generation college graduates.
The Maria Adelasia Mattei ’45 Endowed Award is an annual, one-time award for a first-generation female graduating senior of Bellarmine University. The recipient will be under the age of 30 with a GPA of 2.5 to 3.7. Preference will be given to a business administration major who has demonstrated financial need, and to a student who has studied abroad. If there are no eligible business administration majors in a given academic year, the award will be given to a science or nursing major.
While many endowed awards are created to help students with their expenses during school, the Mattei family wanted to give recipients a bit of a head start immediately following graduation.
“We know Bellarmine does a great job with undergraduate education, and this will be an incentive to support the four-year graduation rate. Rather than give a scholarship, our family decided to give an award that encourages first-generation students to graduate,” Mike said. “The goal is to build the fund so that the annual award pool will eventually be $5,000. We want the award to be significant, so upon graduation, it will really make a difference for a woman beginning her career.”
Joining Mike and Theresa Mattei in funding the endowment are Mike’s siblings and their spouses—Juliana Mattei Hellebusch and Dr. Stephen Hellebusch; Mary Jo Mattei and her husband, Robert Morris; and Joe and Bess Mattei—along with many of Mrs. Mattei’s eight grandchildren and their families. The family hopes that each recipient will honor Maria Adelasia Mattei by supporting higher education for her own children and succeeding generations of her family, Mike said. “It’s just a great way to honor Mom.”