An April event in Clarksburg will honor a prominent Italian family and raise funds to support scholarships for Fairmont State University students to participate in an exchange program with the University of Calabria in Italy.
The event will take place Sunday, April 29, at the Village Square Conference Center Grand Ballroom in Clarksburg. A social hour will begin at 4 p.m., followed by dinner at 5 p.m. Tickets are $40 per person; table sponsorships (eight seats included) can be purchased by individuals or businesses for $1,000. For questions or to purchase tickets, call the FSU Office of Institutional Advancement at (304) 367-4009, or visit www.fairmontpierpontfoundation.org. Event proceeds will provide scholarships for FSU students to participate in an exchange program with the University of Calabria in Italy.
The Order of La Sila is the Calabria-West Virginia Italian Heritage Association’s highest honor for extraordinary Italian descendants. Inductees, also known as “Tall Pines” to the Order as a tribute to the many pines of La Sila, must be living and should be persons who have provided outstanding or distinguished service to areas, such as our region, our cultural heritage, our community and FSU. At the event, Frank A. Oliverio will be the first person inducted as a “Tall Pine” into the Order of La Sila.
“The Oliverio family is being honored for their support of the Italian community, as well as their support of the Fairmont State University Student Exchange Program with the University of Calabria,” said Michael Belmear, Fairmont State Donor Liaison, and past West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival Honorary Italian-American Award.
Fairmont State University and the University of Calabria have enjoyed a relationship of partnership and collaboration since 2007. FSU officials and faculty members have traveled to Italy several times to build relationships and encourage Italian students to study at FSU. Several groups of students from Italy have studied at FSU, with five students currently here and 20 more planning to come next semester.
“As we go through life, we go through this process of finding out who we are. The only way to really find out who we are is to be around people who are different than we are. Studying abroad not only gives you the chance to be around people and societies that are different, but the experience puts you in the position to grow and mature,” Belmear said. “I have not only personally observed this growth in the students Fairmont State University has sent but also have been able to witness the impact on the students that have come from Italy. This has truly been a win-win experience for both institutions and all the students.”
Laura Bonasso was the first FSU student to participate in the exchange in 2009. Since then two other students, Jacob Alt and Lindsay Menas, also have attended the University of Calabria.
"It's a lot to adjust to, but experiences build wisdom and appreciation. Here you have to live spontaneously,” Menas wrote in a blog while studying in Italy. “This takes me out of my comfort zone because I am a planner, but it is teaching me to live each moment in life for what it is rather than being stuck in the past or consumed with what the future may or may not bring. More than anything, I hope that what I have to say might encourage or inspire another fellow Falcon to take this amazing opportunity and embark on their own adventure!"
The Calabria-West Virginia Italian Heritage Association is a chapter of Heritage Calabria International, which was founded by Dr. Francois X. Nicoletti. The Calabria-West Virginia Italian Heritage Association’s mission is to preserve and perpetuate Italian culture and heritage as reflected by the Italian descendants in West Virginia.
In affiliation with the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center on the shared main campus of FSU and Pierpont Community & Technical College and its academic programming, the Association focuses on educating and developing interest in Italian arts, language, literature, history and folklore, along with encouraging study abroad programs throughout Italy, such as the FSU exchange program with the University of Calabria. Membership is extended to all who have an interest, love and respect for the Italian culture with special focus on the Region of Calabria, as reflected by the man Italian descendants of West Virginia.
La Sila is the mountain range that stretches through the Region of Calabria in Italy, encompassing a landscape of wooded hills and small villages.
“Early immigrants from Calabria found the rolling Allegheny Mountains of North Central West Virginia reminiscent of La Sila Mountains and their homeland. The rich Calabrian culture has significantly impacted our community, and FSU strives to maintain this connection through its student exchange program with the University of Calabria,” said Dr. Judy P. Byers, Director of the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center.