NJ Teacher Gives $1M Dollars To Her Former School

By: Lauren Mitchell
OwlFeed News Editor

After spending 45 years working as a special needs teacher at middle school and high school levels, Genevieve Via Cava donated one million dollars to the Dumont School District’s Board of Education in New Jersey. Ms.Via Cava passed away seven years ago at the age of 89, but in her will it states that the money is to be given as scholarship money for special needs students who want to pursue post-secondary education.

Around ten years ago, Emanuele Triggiano, the Dumont Public School District superintendent, recalls her saying that she was going to donate a million dollars. “I thought it was a joke,” Triggiano said. “But then we got the paperwork.”

Although, when it came down to how much Ms. Via Cava cared about the students, he “wasn’t surprised she was going to be donating something,” Triggiano said. “The surprise was the amount of money she sent to us.” 

Photo Courtesy of NorthJersey.com

The former educator continually visited the school district after her retirement in 1990, talking to the superintendent and visiting classrooms. According to NorthJersey.com, who originally wrote about Via Cava, she had a reputation of being kind and generous, with both former students and even strangers who knew of her.

“She was very kind hearted, sometimes with a rough exterior, but very compassionate deep down,” said Richard Jablonski. “She had a smile that was unbelievable. She could talk to anybody just to start conversation with them, and by the time they walked away, they would be hugging.”

Via Cava told Triggiano her passion for her students and how much she liked working at that school.

Hearing of this story, a lot of readers may be questioning how she accumulated this huge sum of money. “She used to come into my store and go to the 70-percent-off rack and that’s all she would buy,” said Richard Jablonski, friend of Ms.Via Cava and executor of her will, who knew her decades before she passed. She was a super-saver, only ever buying a few outfits, and did not go on any vacations after her husband died.

Even when she began losing her hearing, she would not buy the hearing aids she needed. “I asked her what she was saving for, since she could afford it, and it would change her life for the better,” Jablonski said.

Now, seven years after she died, the school district received the money in April, and plans on giving scholarships up to $25,000 dollars for one or more students annually, starting with the 2019-2020 school year. The money will also be set to where over time the money will grow with interest.

Alongside the million dollars to the Dumont School District, she also left $100,000 each to five more organizations, including the Ramapo Animal Refuge and the Salvation Army, both of which were also very important to Ms.Via Cava.

Although she taught many, Ms. Via Cava had an uncanny memory of her former students, chatting with them when they crossed paths, no matter how long ago she had known them. After the school day, her work never really ended. She would help her former students, even those in their 20’s and 30’s, find jobs with her connections in the area.

Now, years after she passed away, students, teachers, and all who knew Ms.Via Cava are finding out how much she loved teaching and supported education. “Her name will live on forever in this scholarship fund,” Mr. Jablonski said. “It’s unbelievable that she’s going to have this effect… she’s leaving behind a lasting legacy.”