Mother’s dreams take flight

By Knox Keranen, Staff Reporter

Ignacio Calderon
Professor Dominic Calabrese doubled the amount of the scholarship he created to $10,000 ($5,000 each) in honor of his late mother Elizabeth Frances Calabrese.

Following the death of his mother in February, Dominic Calabrese is renaming a scholarship to honor her, calling it the Elizabeth Frances Calabrese Publicity Club of Chicago Award. He is also doubling the amount of the award, funded by his personal savings.

Calabrese, an adjunct professor in the Communication Department for the past 21 years, created  the then-Dominic Calabrese Publicity Club of Chicago Scholarship Awards last year, as reported Oct. 8, 2018 by the Chronicle.

The passing of Calabrese’s mother caused him to move from Chicago to Columbia, South Carolina, in order to be closer to family. Despite the move, he flies more than 750 miles from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Chicago each week to teach two public relations courses at Columbia.

Prior to the move, Calabrese also served 15 years as senior vice president for the Chicago Lighthouse, a nonprofit social service organization serving the blind, visually-impaired, disabled and veteran communities.

Calabrese spoke with the Chronicle about how he is adjusting to his new life, about his mother and how she impacted the scholarship’s changes.

THE CHRONICLE: What has the past year been like?

CALABRESE: It has been a year that I will never forget. I have had tremendous highs and lows. Losing my mother certainly was the lowest point of my life, but a few months after that, in June, I received the top honor from [the Publicity Club of Chicago]. I got their Lifetime Achievement Award for my service to the club and to the public relations profession, which has certainly been the biggest honor I have received.

What is your commute like?

[I fly] up on a Wednesday and back on a Friday after my classes. I would be less than honest if I said it isn’t tiring. Columbia, [South Carolina], itself isn’t a very large city, and it doesn’t have very good air service. I have to drive up to Charlotte, which is about a two-hour drive. [Then], it’s about a two-hour flight.

I am not used to flying [or] constant travel back and forth, but the opportunity to continue to teach here and work with our students has meant a lot to me and I wanted to continue it.

Courtesy Dominic Calabrese
The passing of Calabrese’s mother caused him to move from Chicago to Columbia, South Carolina, in order to be closer to family.

Why do you have such a dedication to Columbia?

I have come into contact with some wonderful students, many of whom have contacted me and told me how helpful I was to their career. That means so much to me, to get that feedback because probably the most noble thing you can do in this world is to be a teacher, where you are shaping someone else’s life.

Why are scholarships important to you?

I know how important an education is, and my mother was a big believer in education. All three of her sons, interestingly enough, are teachers. So, as I say, I thought this would be a really good way to honor her. I wanted the students who were applying to understand … what made her special.

What does this specific scholarship mean to you?

My mother never had the chance to go to college and I wanted to help someone fulfill that dream … and I thought that would be a good way to honor her memory. So, I have $10,000 from my personal savings account that I am donating for these scholarships.

I read on Facebook you were the customer of the year at Longhorn Steakhouse.

I [loved] taking my mother out to eat on Saturday. We would usually alternate. She would treat me one week and I would treat her the next. And we love Longhorn Steakhouse. They recognized us and were grateful for our support and all the money we spent there. They gave us a customer of the year award back in 2015 and there are pictures of me with my mom posing with the award. Loyalty is an important value. I’m loyal to Columbia [and] I’m loyal to Longhorn. I try to put a premium on loyalty.