Student Government Gives Back

News Story:

Every year, Sacred Heart University’s Student Government sets $10,000 aside into a Capital Improvement Fund. The purpose of the special budget is to give something back to SHU, to donate toward somehow making the campus a better place, to contribute toward the growth of one of New England’s finest educational institutions.

But for three years that fund sat untapped. Student Government didn’t abandon the idea of the gift, says Matt Telvi, who is set to begin his second year as Student Government president. It’s just that nothing the university needed seemed to match the spirit of the fund.

This year, that changed. With the construction of the SHU chapel taking center stage in the center of the Fairfield campus, Telvi and the Student Government Executive Board acted fast. Collecting the $30,000 of accumulated funds, they wrote a check to donate a baby grand piano and two pews to the school’s new center of worship.

“We figured, how many chances do we have as a student government to donate to something that’s so worthwhile to the university?” says Student Government Vice President for Finance Michael Tarantino, who graduated this May with a degree in business administration. “The big chapel, the big construction — everybody knows about it. And we figured if we can donate to the chapel, then that’s what we should do.”

Telvi, a senior political science major from Walkill, N.Y., says the idea for the donation came to him during the Fall 2007 semester. He met with Denise Tiberio, the associate dean of students and advisor to Student Government, then brought his proposal to the 11-member Executive Board. “They thought it was a great idea,” he says. “It was pretty much a unanimous, let’s-jump-on-this attitude from them. I was very proud that they felt the same way I did. It was such an easy decision.”

SHU broke ground for the $17 million chapel in December 2006, with an expected opening date of September 2008. The principal sanctuary will seat 500, with a smaller chapel for daily mass and private prayer.

“It’s really an honor to be part of this, because I love the school,” says Tarantino, a resident of Wanpagh, N.Y., who plans to return to SHU in the fall to pursue an MBA. “It’s been great to do all the things that I’ve done here, so I like that I’m helping to leave a legacy. I can come back and say I was a part of it when this was happening, I was here when the chapel was being built. I can leave something behind more than just getting my degree, more than just the friends. We all worked as a group, and it’s a remembrance, a souvenir in my mind.”

The donation amounts to the biggest gift Student Government has ever given to the university, and Tiberio says it’s a perfect use of the fund.

“The chapel is the most significant building that we’ve seen built at Sacred Heart, and it holds a huge value to our campus community,” Tiberio says. “When Matt brought this to the committee, it wasn’t like he had to talk them into it. This is something that they were willing and happy to take part in. It just shows that the students want to play a part in history here. And with the $30,000 price range, they were able to participate in a meaningful way.”

Tiberio isn’t the only administrator who’s taken notice of the gift. Telvi notes that Dean of Students Larry Wielk has commended Student Government for the gesture, and Executive Director of Development Todd Gibbs attended an Executive Board meeting to offer a formal thank-you.

“It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime,” Telvi says. “How many times are they going to be building a chapel on a college campus, and you can say you were there for it, you can say you helped out? As the representation of student body, we thought it was a great opportunity.”