Why I Give

Alumna gives to EHHS to honor her parents

CibellaMary Cibella gives to the College of EHHS in memory of her parents, Charles S. and Caroline D. Cibella.  “My parents always instilled in me the love of learning and the need for a good education. My father was a first-generation American. Although neither of them completed high school, they understood the value of a good education and the opportunities that come with a good education. They always supported me in any way possible. I setup the Charles S. and Caroline D. Cibella Family Education Scholarship to honor them and all that they did for me. They have both passed away, but the scholarship will keep their memory and values alive for years to come,” said Mary.

Mary is an attorney and of counsel to the law firm of McGinty Hilow & Spellacy Co. L.P.A in Cleveland, and concentrates her practice in the area of professional responsibility.  She is a lecturer on various ethics, discipline, professionalism and substance abuse topics. “Teaching these classes is fulfilling for me because it combines the teaching and legal profession.”

Mary received a bachelor’s of science degree in education in 1980 from Kent State University and a juris doctorate in 1983 from Cleveland State University’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. She volunteers her time as a College of EHHS advisory council member, and was selected as the 2012 Distinguished Service to EHHS Award recipient for the Third Annual Hall of Fame Awards.

Mary’s generosity to the College spans across her family. Recently, her brother, Vincent F. Cibella, passed away and his children insisted on donations to the scholarship in lieu of flowers.

Former literacy education faculty members setup scholarship for teachers

JoAnne and Rich VaccaFormer Kent State University literacy education faculty members, Drs. Richard and JoAnne Vacca, give to the College of EHHS because it's a personal connection to teachers. "We taught teachers for many years at Kent State and we know it can be hard for many students to pay tuition, so we decided to setup a scholarship to support teachers," said JoAnne. The Richard and JoAnne Vacca Scholarship for Teachers of Literacy is available yearly to 1-3, full-time teachers in Northeast Ohio who are admitted to the Reading Specialization Master's program. In addition to teaching literacy education classes, Rich was the director of the Reading and Writing Center and was inducted into the Reading Hall of Fame in 2010. JoAnne was the Chair of the Department of Teaching Leadership & Curriculum Studies.

The Vaccas, both originally from New York, met at the University at Albany – SUNY, and have been married for 46 years. Currently, they live full time in Vero Beach, Florida, but remain bonded to the College of EHHS. "Rich and I both taught for 20 plus years at Kent State and retired in 2003 and 2002, respectively. Our scholarship allows us to stay connected after all of these years. The staff, faculty and students of the College are genuine, have a heart, and are always moving forward."

In addition to the scholarship, they also donated money in 2007 to renovate the College's undergraduate advising office, which is currently named the Vacca Office of Student Services in their honor. "Former Dean David England came to us and shared architect plans for the Vacca Office of Student Services. The renovated space would provide a welcoming, professional environment for serving students. And, Associate Dean Dr. Joanne Arhar did an amazing job of working on the project, helping it to take shape," said JoAnne.

Since retirement, the Vaccas stay active by walking their dogs to the ocean, and traveling, most recently to Ireland. JoAnne enjoys yoga and volunteering at a hospice center, while Rich plays golf and volunteers at a children's home tutoring adolescent boys. Also, they recently co-wrote the 11th edition of their textbook, Content Area Reading: Literacy and Learning Across the Curriculum.

Their daughter, Dr. Courtney Vierstra, is a faculty member in the College's Rehabilitation Counseling program, and their grandson, Simon, is an undergraduate student at the university. 

Couple supports groundbreaking research with Parkinson's disease patients

Les and Nikki Barta
Left to right: Nikki Barta, Les Barta, and Dr. Angela Ridgel

Les and his wife Nikki Barta, of Aurora, agree that giving to Kent State University makes a difference. Les graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration from Kent State in 1965, and he spent the majority of his 33-year career working as a specialist in corporate tax at Goodrich Corp. in Akron.  Les and Nikki, who both have neurological difficulties, have financially supported Exercise Science assistant professor Angela Ridgel's groundbreaking research with Parkinson's disease, and see her work as a step in the right direction.

Ridgel's research has proven that symptoms are reduced in Parkinson's disease patients by forced exercise on motorized bicycles. Typically, the brain sends signals to the various muscles in the body, and then there is a feedback loop, which tells the brain what the muscles are doing. Once lost, the central nervous system neurons do not grow back. And once a person loses those neurons, they are gone. Ridgel's research has suggested that the body might initiate neuron changes in the absence of those cells. The forced exercise helps the central nervous system neurons modify activity.

The Bartas, who will be married for 50 years in July, have two adult children and one grandchild and enjoy playing cards, watching movies, attending the Cleveland orchestra concerts and traveling around the globe, including Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean. Les also enjoys attending Kent State football and basketball games. "Les has always been very appreciative of what Kent State University has done for him, and we are happy to support this research" said Nikki.