Giving, her way
As a critical care registered nurse for 10 years, Mary Boosalis experienced firsthand the complex needs of a hospital’s most vulnerable patients. When she became an intensive care “float” nurse, working off shifts around her master’s in business degree program, it heightened her appreciation for the flexibility a nursing degree offered.
“While I missed being part of a regular team, I also appreciated my prior experiences both prepared and enabled me to put myself through graduate school,” she said. “A nursing degree can be a springboard for many career trajectories within the health care sector. Nursing grounded me in wanting a mission-based career that touched people’s lives in a profound way.”
As president and CEO of Premier Health, Boosalis believes such experiences inform her position leading one of the largest employers in the region and one of the largest health care systems in Southwest Ohio.
People draw from their backgrounds to excel in their professions. Increasingly, more women are also bringing those experiences to their decisions on which organizations they support and how their legacies will shape the world. For the seven women profiled on these pages, that has included shaping the future of the University of Dayton by funding priorities that enhance the student experience and align with the long-term mission of the University of Dayton.
“I think more and more women will be giving,” Boosalis said, “because more and more women are making advances in their careers. I believe this will continue to grow, and that’s exciting and important for everybody.”
“I think more and more women will be giving... . I believe this will continue to grow, and that’s exciting and important for everybody.”
Boosalis, chair of the University of Dayton’s board of trustees, has announced her upcoming retirement from both leadership positions and is considering her legacy.
“I have had incredible career opportunities,” she said of her recent decision to make a gift to support nursing students studying at UD. “This is a tangible way to do something to give back and hopefully make a small difference in the lives of others. It gives me tremendous joy to hear that same motivation from other people.”
While she’s had a gift in mind for a while, Boosalis said the pandemic both delayed its announcement and intensified her desire to support future nurses through gifts to both the University of Dayton and the Miami Valley Hospital Foundation, the hospital where she has spent the bulk of her executive career. Starting in fall 2022, two University of Dayton nursing students will receive scholarships for their first two years, when the program is intensive on class work. During their third and fourth years, when studies focus on the clinical education, students will receive financial aid through the foundation to support learning and living expenses. From 2024 onward, four UD nursing students will receive financial assistance from the two funds at any one time.
“This scholarship is my way of saying thank you to the people who really are making a difference during this pandemic, and that’s the frontline of the health care team: the doctors, the nurses, the therapists. They are the people saving lives and providing exceptional medical care, and I will always have the highest respect for that,” she said.
Boosalis remembers when she was a nursing student and received $50 per month in scholarship aid from Easterseals. It went toward groceries, rent, books — her area of greatest need. And she wants these students to have that same flexibility.
“It just helped me at a very pragmatic level,” she said. “It’s all part of getting through school.”
While she is inclined to give anonymously, she’s said she hopes putting her name on a gift this personal and this meaningful will encourage others to do the same.
Boosalis cares deeply about what she sees as the fruition of her work. In health care, the patient comes first. In education, it’s the student. This scholarship supports both through two organizations with a long and successful record of working for the community and of working together, she said.
“By giving through a scholarship, it initially touches students and, ultimately, will touch patients and the entire community,” she said. “It aligns with my personal values, my experience and my strong convictions regarding education. I believe education is key to resolving many of the world’s challenges now and well into our future.”
In 1984, after nearly 20 years in nursing,
R. Anne Shale ’87 decided to change professions — and found herself the oldest student in her UD School of Law class. “Some of the young men used to call me ‘Mom,’” she said, but she appreciated how they looked out for her and helped her transition to thinking like a lawyer.
“In nursing school, we were taught on a medical model, so if you found certain symptoms, you took certain actions,” she said. “I wanted to get the one best answer — and the [law school] professors wanted me to think more and use my brain.”
Shale said her determination to succeed — and her study partner, John Cummiskey ’87 — helped get her through.
Her first job in law combined both her backgrounds. She spent the summer in hot, stuffy basements sifting through medical records of General Motors employees for the firm Cowden, Pfarrer, Crew & Becker.
“I would come out, and my hands would just be filthy,” Shale said. But she loved it — and they appreciated her hard work. She stayed on doing workers’ compensation law until 1999, when she made the switch to domestic relations with firm Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues.
Shale retired from full-time practice in 2017 and continues to help families through the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Greater Dayton. She returns to the UD School of Law for continuing education courses and reflects on wonderful professors, such as Thomas Hagel and Jeffrey Morris, who prepared her well for her second career. She also appreciates the price tag for her law degree — $18,000 — and wants to help today’s students also achieve their dreams.
Because of that, Shale has directed her donations to the University of Dayton Fund and Dean’s Fund for Excellence. Her gifts, including a bequest, can be used where they are needed the most. She’s excited to be making a difference in students’ lives.
“A women’s opinion improves life for everybody.”
“A women’s opinion improves life for everybody,” she said of the increase in earning power she’s seen since she graduated from nursing school in 1967 and the way women have used it to help their communities.
A problem solver by nature and training, Nadaya Parks ’16 finds snippets of life inspiring. She snags them out of the ether — a phrase from Scripture, a line from a song, a thought in her head — and writes them on Post-it notes.
“I have packets of them, around my house everywhere and on my desk,” she said. “Whenever I get a thought, I just put it on a Post-it note.”
A chemical engineering graduate who works as a quality systems engineer for medical device company Stryker, Parks also noticed other things: how hard Black women have to work in STEM to be recognized, and how few get public recognition. Because of this she added the words “opportunity,” “encouragement” and “space” to her notes.
While the colorful papers disappear into her desk drawer, her mind is still working out the problem.
For Black History Month in 2021, she posted to social media each day the name and contribution of a Black woman in STEM. This led her followers to wonder what was next.
Parks knew that this spark of an idea, which transformed into a personal brand, was destined for greater things. Through Lady STEM, she now supports other multi-ethnic women and girls interested in the field. She speaks at schools and organized a school supply drive, so students can focus on learning.
She also donated, during the University’s 2021 giving day, to UD’s Multi-Ethnic Education and Engagement Center. “I really value what UD poured into me,” she said. “The office of multicultural affairs invested a lot of time, energy, prayer and resources in me. That meant a lot.”
“I really value what UD poured into me.”
The recipient of multiple scholarships, Parks remembers a time when she struggled with grades and could have lost her financial aid. Instead, the campus came together to ensure she could continue her journey at UD. “People typically don’t make room for you like that. I knew how important it was to me and my family, and I wanted to return the favor.”
Parks says she now has a new title — philanthropist — with a focus on giving women the opportunity, encouragement and space they need to be great.
When it was time for Elena Estasen Harriman ’67 to apply to colleges, her father was more than enthusiastic.
“Both of my parents were believers in education. I went to a Catholic girl’s high school, Villa Joseph Marie, run at the time by the Sisters of St. Casimir (in Newtown, Pennsylvania). So, UD was a great fit.”
Her father, Fernando Estasen, never attended college. A Puerto Rican, he grew up wanting to be an electrical engineer but couldn’t afford college tuition. Instead, he worked as an electrician, a trade he loved and spent more than 30 years doing.
“He would have been an electrical engineer, but for the death of his father,” she said. “My father’s chances of going to college were slim to none — he had five sisters. But he had a good life.”
Harriman calls herself a “daddy’s girl” who always looked up to and admired her father. He was killed in a steel mill accident in 1970, just three years after her UD graduation.
“He was a giver. He was involved in volunteering — at the fire department in our town and the ambulance service,” she said. “He didn’t have money, but he had time. I thought my dad was the greatest guy in the whole world.”
In 2014, Harriman established the Fernando Estasen Scholarship at UD, in honor of her father. The scholarship is awarded annually to an electrical engineering student who is either Hispanic or female, to encourage more diversity in the field, said Harriman.
“I really want somebody like my dad to get a good education,” she said.
“I really want somebody like my dad to get a good education.”
Harriman said she is thankful for the education she received in UD’s geology department and is happy she is able to give another student an amazing UD experience like she had.
“I really enjoyed my time there, even though some of the things we did were peculiar to UD at the time,” she said. “To go to a basketball game, you got up at 5 a.m. to walk to the fieldhouse because tickets were distributed at 6 a.m. Of course, this was the dead of winter. That is really one of those memories that is ‘frozen’ in my mind.”
Lori Hausfeld is not a UD alumna but said she has long felt like part of the Dayton family, especially when she’s watching a volleyball game. It’s where she goes to remember her daughter, Kacie.
“It just feels like home,” she said.
Kacie, a junior early childhood education major, was a volleyball player at UD when she and her father, Tom, were killed in a small plane crash in 2010. As the starting setter for her last two seasons, Kacie recorded seven assists per set and 51 aces in those two years.
In 2016, Hausfeld decided to make a transformative gift to the athletics program — specifically to upgrade the Thomas J. Frericks Athletic and Convocation Center into a premier volleyball facility, in honor of Kacie and Tom.
“I wanted to do something to honor them, and the volleyball program was such an important part of Kacie’s life — she loved it so much,” she said.
Her daughter loved UD, and Hausfeld said that the volleyball team was always like a second family to Kacie, which was her main motivator when making her gift.
“Seeing how it impacts the girls and to know that I’ve had some part in helping develop this great tradition of volleyball at UD … it’s a great feeling,” she said.
The gift helped turn the center into a renowned space that includes new seating, a new sound system, and new scoreboards and video boards. The players’ lounge is named for Kacie, and her jersey along with photos of her hang on the wall, as does a tribute, which reads, in part, “Kacie, who wore No. 14 … was known for her leadership and influential personality. … Her impact is still felt by the team.”
UD will always be close to her heart, Hausfeld said, and she and her husband (she was remarried to Jim Prenger in 2019) come to several volleyball games per year. They return not only to see the team but to also feel part of the community Kacie loved so much, she said.
“One of Kacie’s funny stories was her first year in the dorms, they had community bathrooms, which a lot of students hated. But she loved it. She’d say, ‘I go there to brush my teeth every morning and get to talk to everybody, and see how their weekend was.’ Kacie was just very social and loved the people at UD.”
Life has many lessons to teach. Sandra Bertoni Schmidt ’69, who enjoyed a 30-year career as a professor of commerce, wanted to be sure her students took from her classes more than just business.
On the last day of each semester at the University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce, she’d present a slideshow. Set to music, it would include quotations and moments of inspiration.
“There was not one quote in there that had anything to do with money,” she said. “That was very important, that they understood success was about so much more.”
“There was not one quote in there that had anything to do with money. That was very important, that they understood success was about so much more.”
That is especially important for Schmidt, whose parents had lived through the Great Depression.
“I never felt the struggle, but I saw the struggle,” said Schmidt, who remembers her parents serving polenta with sauce and adding to her plate the only meat they had so their daughter could grow up strong.
They also wanted their daughter to grow up smart. “My mother, who only went through the eighth grade, had the philosophy that you had to get as much education as possible,” she said. “It was her foundation that drove me.”
Schmidt, who often found herself the only woman in her courses at UD’s business school, went on to receive a doctorate from the University of Cincinnati; she dedicated her dissertation to her mother.
In 2001, Schmidt set up in her name a scholarship for female UD business students, an acknowledgment of her mother’s wisdom and in recognition of all UD had given her: an education, passion, lifelong friends and introduction to her future husband, Dan Schmidt ’69.
When Dan got very ill, she asked him if he would consider contributing some of his retirement funds to the scholarship as well. “Absolutely” was his answer. He died in 2018.
Students now receive the scholarship in both of their names. “He understood how important it was to me to encourage women to find their passion,” said Schmidt, who credits her husband with being her partner in all things, from raising their daughter to building their careers. “This is a way I can help somebody enjoy all of what UD offers, in and beyond the classroom.”
In 1974, Carol Shaw, the only female UD engineering faculty member at the time, came to speak to a high school calculus class. She looked each girl in the eye, including Paige Hagwood Giannetti ’78, and told them engineering was no longer a man’s world.
Giannetti was gripped.
“I’ve always felt this strong sense of loyalty to Carol — and to UD — for getting me interested in engineering,” Giannetti said.
Shaw invited the students to a camp she was starting just for young women to learn about engineering. That summer, Giannetti attended the University’s first Women in Engineering Summer Camp and fell in love.
That fall, she enrolled in the chemical engineering program at UD.
As a first-year, she was approached by Michael Bobal, chair of the program, to apply for an internship program at Procter & Gamble just for engineering majors. Giannetti called it a “dream job.”
That internship turned into her first full-time engineering job and a 35-year career working in research and product development for Procter & Gamble, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola and GOJO Industries.
Giannetti’s generosity to UD has included gifts to the Women in Engineering program, the School of Engineering Dean’s Fund for Excellence and the Multi-Ethnic Engineering Program, among other initiatives. She also supports the ETHOS Center, which provides students with service-learning experiences in more than 20 countries.
“Their work is outwardly focused on the needs of those beyond ourselves,” she said.
In 2019, Shaw established the Carol M. Shaw Women in Engineering Scholarship, providing former campers the opportunity to study engineering at UD. When Giannetti heard about it, she knew what to do.
“I naturally wanted to be supportive because it was truly coming full circle — being able to contribute is very special to me,” she said.
“I naturally wanted to be supportive because it was truly coming full circle — being able to contribute is very special to me.”
Giannetti’s husband, Robert, supports his wife’s passions at UD, though he is not an alumnus. Giannetti said she wanted to make these decisions for herself.
“He knows that I have certain passions, so he leaves it up to me — to pursue whatever passions I want to help create opportunity for others,” she said.