Published: July 11, 2017 By

With collaborative gift, they establish a legacy of support for students of Italian and women and gender studies

Outgoing Associate Dean for the Arts and Humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences, Valerio Ferme, and his spouse, Giorgio Corda, a professor of Italian at the University of Colorado Boulder, have established the Andermarch Cicogna Endowed Scholarship Fund. In alternating years, the scholarship will support high-achieving students in either the Italian or Women & Gender Studies departments.

To those on campus and in the College of Arts and Sciences who worked with Ferme throughout his 19 years at CU Boulder, the scholarship presents an unexpected but not quite shocking gesture from a venerated administrator about whom one English professor said, "When I first met with Valerio, he made it clear that undergraduate education is where he lives, and I was excited about that."

Ferme has earned a reputation for himself on campus of supporting faculty and championing student-success initiatives.

This summer, Ferme will leave CU Boulder for Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, where he will serve as dean of the College of Arts & Letters. It's not surprising that someone who devoted himself so tirelessly to the university wanted to leave behind a legacy not only in the form of his enduring work but with this generous financial gift, which will benefit students for years to come.

CU Boulder often receives donations from alumni or local figures of prominence, but not quite as frequently from departing faculty. One detail, however, which makes Ferme and Corda’s contribution so striking is that they'd established the fund months before they knew they’d be leaving CU.

The Andermarch Cicogna Endowed Scholarship celebrates the two women for whom it was named, their mothers.

Photograph of Valerio Ferme

Valerio Ferme is the Outgoing Associate Dean for Arts and Humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences (Photo by Craig Levinsky).

Renata Andermarch, Corda’s mother, was born in the Adriatic seaport town of Trieste, where she raised Corda and his sister on her own and with very little.

"Even through difficult and dire financial circumstances," wrote Ferme in his scholarship agreement, "she always carried herself with dignity and imparted the virtues of hard work, resilience and understanding," which are traits he can very much identify in Corda, recipient of the 2017 Arts & Sciences Support of Education Through Technology (ASSETT) Excellence in Teaching with Technology Award for his work in developing hybrid and online instruction, a mode of learning that makes education accessible to disabled or otherwise disadvantaged students. Ms. Andermarch passed away in 2013.

Patricia Cicogna, mother of Ferme, was reared in Utah. Later, she moved to New York City where she studied philosophy at Barnard College, then Fordham University for graduate school, which she left just before earning her doctorate so that she could raise her nine children in Milan, Italy. There, she lectured at three different universities and worked as a tutor and translator.

Among her achievements, "She translated Sexual Difference: A Theory of Social-Symbolic Practice, an influential book by the Milan Woman’s Bookstore Collective," wrote Ferme. She also volunteered for a battered-women’s shelter, "hosted and helped Bosnian refugees during the civil war that followed the dissolution of the Yugoslav Federation, and maintained a schedule of activities that make people many years her junior pale in comparison."

"She continues to lead an incredibly active life," said Ferme, "and her activism for women’s causes is partially behind our decision to endow the scholarship." Today, Ms. Cicogna is 83 years old and actively supports social causes.  

"The inspiration for a lot of the socially concerned outreach and work that I do comes from my mother, because that’s what I grew up seeing," said Ferme, who intends that future scholarship recipients maintain that same humanitarian drive. In its inaugural year, the scholarship was awarded to two students, one each from Italian and women & gender studies.

Said Ferme of Katie Wallace, the student recipient from women studies: "She has actually just written us a letter in which she details some of the work that she's done. It was really just right up my mother's alley and the kind of work that would inspire her."

"Public institutions are extremely important in educating future generations," added Ferme. "So, part of this scholarship is about making sure we continue to provide resources outside of the traditional funding streams so that we can allow students who come from less-privileged backgrounds the opportunity to have a transformative education, so that they can then make a transformation in society themselves, because we certainly need some of that moving forward. That’s how I see this helping make a little difference."