ICQ 2003/1Class Notes

Family Legacy


Pamela Pesoli Nardi '03 is a chip off the old block --
her father, Anthony Pesoli '54

by Kristin Colongeli Hamill

" No one to write an excuse": Nardi handling schoolwork

"I grew up thinking that there was no better college in the world than Ithaca College." Pamela Pesoli Nardi still thinks so. She will graduate in May -- at an age well beyond that of the traditional college student -- as one of the first four alumni of the College's gerontology major. The daughter of Anthony Pesoli '54, who was in his time the oldest freshman in campus history (age 36) to matriculate at Ithaca College, and Angelina Leonardi Pesoli, a longtime supporter of IC and an honorary alumna, Nardi is as grateful as her parents for the gift of higher education.

Anthony Pesoli returned from military service (he served in the 87th Infantry Division during the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge, coming home decorated with three Bronze Stars) to major in business at Ithaca College. It was normal for Nardi and her sister, Patricia Pesoli-Bishop '69, not to see too much of their dad when he was juggling going back to school with starting a business. He never complained about having to study, but instead taught his family about the promise of higher education and the importance of giving back. "Dad thought education was something you both owned -- that the College also had a stake in who you would become, that it was definitely a reciprocal relationship," says Nardi. There were times, she remembers, when his young children even worried that their father thought "it was more important to give to the Alumni Fund than buy bigger Christmas presents for his daughters." (Anthony Pesoli was the driving force behind the construction of Alumni Hall; the boardroom in that building is named for him.) "My sister went to the College, too, getting a degree in English," says Nardi.

The future scholar and family in 1954 at her father's graduation from IC

In 1995 Nardi, whose previous career was in accounting, enrolled in the gerontology certificate program of the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute. Her husband, Jim (who has since passed away, in 1999), a building mechanic for Physical Plant and a longtime member of Staff Council, helped her through her return-to-college jitters by dropping in during his breaks to see how her coursework was going and encourage her when juggling both work and family seemed overwhelming. She earned her certificate in 2000 and subsequently decided to go for the bachelor's degree in gerontology, which was being offered for the first time in fall 2001.

Growing up with her grandmother, Maria, living in the same house, Nardi says she has always felt comfortable in a senior environment: "Age discrimination was never an issue, which is probably why I have done so well in school. I don't see age perimeters when I view the world. My mother and sister think the same way. We don't think of the losses [that come with] age, only of the gains. There is no shame in getting old; it's a great accomplishment!"

As an older student, she feels she was expected to do better than younger students, and she has expected herself to do better. While she realizes that grades are necessary to measure competence, she says it's hard being tested by an instructor who is close in age to her children. On open-ended essays, for example, it's difficult to try to see things from the eyes of people who aren't her contemporaries because they have such different points of reference. "I couldn't give the instructor the perspective of an 18-year-old because I'm not 18," she says. "Fortunately, I've never had a professor who didn't appreciate an honest, mature response." Academics are difficult also because so many years had passed since she last took science and math courses. And, she points out cheerfully, it's harder to memorize as you get older. At first she also felt that she was not ever going to fit in with her classmates -- that instead she would be thought of as a mother figure. But in fact she was accepted warmly.

"Returning to college was the most difficult thing I have done, because of the physical demands and personal responsibilities," Nardi says. "In order to take care of your priorities, you have to make choices a normal student wouldn't have to make. When you're older, life doesn't wait just because you're in school; you don't necessarily even want it to." Besides, she adds, "There is no one to write you a note if you can't get your life done!"

Under the supervision of her adviser, Gerontology Institute associate director Pamela Mayberry, Nardi did her fieldwork at Longview, where she also volunteers. Last summer she held a dual internship at Tompkins County Office of the Aging and Tompkins County Long-Term Care, working on a survey for Better Housing of Tompkins County. She intends to find work in the Ithaca community, which she says she'll never leave. "I love this place -- the people are wonderful," she says.

Looking forward to graduation, Nardi is grateful for her late husband's encouragement, and she credits the College for being flexible throughout her years of studies. As she wistfully remembers her father in his cap and gown, she says she also would never have made it without her mother who, at 83 years old, still calls her at night to see how her paper came out or if she got an A on a test. "If I didn't graduate, my mother would never forgive me. I couldn't disappoint her, Jim, or my dad."

That's not likely to happen.

Top -- Terry Beckley
Bottom -- Coutresy of Pamela Pesoli Nardi

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A. Ozolins, Ithaca College Office of Publications, 28 April, 2003