STEUBENVILLE - Staff, students and friends of the Franciscan University of Steubenville paid tribute to a woman who served the school for 56 years, helping it through its most difficult days and supporting it in many ways.
"No one who met Rose DeFede could fail to recognize the great love that inspired her life," said the Rev. Richard Davis, the university's vice president of community relations, reading the citation on the Founders Association Award presented to DeFede's family during the school's annual Founders' Association Dinner at the J.C. Williams Center.
DeFede, a Wellsburg resident, died on Aug. 28, 2010, at the age of 84. Known for writing poems commemorating the retirements of many Franciscan University staff members, she had no plans of retiring herself and continued to work as director of community relations prior to her death.
The Rev. Richard Davis, the school's vice president of community relations, said prior to the dinner, "She (DeFede) came as a student and never left. Rose was just a legend here."
Davis noted that shortly after beginning classes, she began working there as a secretary.
Over the years she would go on to serve as a cashier, accountant, the university bookstore's first manager, assistant to the treasurer, controller, director of business services, the first woman on the president's council and alumni director, among other positions.
Davis said through it all, DeFede had an unshakable faith in God and tireless spirit.
"She was a regular attendee at daily Mass, and her deep faith made her a strong support to those around her, even in the most difficult days of the College of Steubenville, when many people doubted the school would survive," he said.
David said DeFede often commented on how the college, from which the university developed, often had difficulty meeting its payroll "but somehow, God always provided at the last moment."
The Rev. Terence Henry, the university's president, noted DeFede had a strong interest in the arts and enjoyed writing poetry and prose and sang the National Anthem and the school's alma mater at commencement ceremonies.
DeFede also has been remembered at the university through the Rose M. DeFede Faithful Franciscan Award, presented to distinguished alumni; Academy of Life-long Learning's Rose DeFede Lecture Series and a scholarship program named in her honor by the university's Women's Guild, of which she was a charter member.
At the dinner Rose M. DeFede Women's Guild Scholarships were presented to four local women: Lisa Haught, Audrey Marie Kallay, Griselda Taylor and Rachel Oiler.
DeFede's niece, MaryAnn DeGarmo, said if she were there, her aunt would embrace each of the recipients and be their biggest supporter.
DeGarmo, who was among several family members on hand to accept the award for DeFede, said her aunt also was a modest woman who would have asked, "What's the big deal?"
But DeGarmo said the truth is, DeFede "touched many lives as a supporter, educator and friend" and wanted those she loved to achieve their full potential.
She said DeFede "devoted her life to her family, her parish and the Franciscan University of Steubenville."
Henry said, "It's been said gratitude is the key to happiness in life. We're just extremely grateful for the gift of Rose."
"She was so special to us. We know she's up there praying for us," he added.
Founders Association Scholarships also were presented to students Christy Renforth, Amanda Carmine and Brian Sizemore.
First held in 1949, the Founders' Association Dinner was established by the Rev. Daniel Egan, the first president of the College of Steubenville, as a means of drawing together college and civic communities of the Ohio Valley.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)