Students and faculty gathered at the Buckman Theater on October 27 to celebrate the late Quinnipiac University student and aspiring writer, Tony Michael Massaro.
Massaro was a sophomore in philosophy at Quinnipiac when he died in an off-campus bicycling incident in 2018. His mother Linda Massaro said he had written all his life and had won awards for his writing.
“I thought it was just a natural way to honor Tony and create a legacy of his memory and his passion by creating the number one scholarship for philosophy majors and then launching a student competition, which will help students and preserve the importance and beauty of writing,” said Linda Massaro.
The Anthony Massaro Scholarship Fund was awarded this year to Quinnipiac student Brian Daly. The Massaro Prize Series is a satirical writing contest that has 10 winners in total. The event included live music and free pizza, and students gathered in the theater to listen to the winners announced and read their submissions.
The Massaro prizes were $1,000 in total, including one gifted spirit prize of $200, two grand spirit prizes of $150, three spirit prizes of $100, and four very-very good spirit prizes of $50. Associate Professor of English Timothy Dansdill said the prizes were based on the most witty, playful and satirical submissions.
“From my son, Tony, in a world of words, he used his pen very skillfully to make his voice heard,” Linda Massaro said. “And I thought that was really something that stayed with me, and I wanted to continue his passion for writing.”
To enter the competition, students had to email their submissions to Dansdill by October 20. The submissions were completely original and on any topic. It was open to undergraduates in any major.
Linda Massaro contacted Dansdill because she remembered him being one of the teachers her son had mentioned to her. Dansdill said Tony was taking his creative writing course and another course in rhetoric. Dansdill met with the Massaros and discussed the creation of the Anthony Massaro Scholarship Fund and a series of writing awards in 2019, but its implementation was delayed due to COVID-19.
“I am exceptionally grateful to Professor Timothy Dansdill,” said Linda Massaro. “Tony was a student of his, and he never forgot, and he never gave up and three and a half years later despite all the delays and the COVID disruption, this event finally happened.”
Dansdill said Quinnipiac had focused less on the liberal arts in recent years and wanted to bring that back to the school with events such as the Massaro Prize Series.
“I haven’t seen an event like this happen in years on this campus, it’s one of a kind,” Dansdill said. “It wasn’t like this before.”
Dansdill decided to include live music at the event because he started a band called the Rhythm Doctors 15 years ago. They are an active group of teachers and have performed at Christmas and back to school. As he said similar events were not as popular among students, Dansdill did not expect large audiences. He said he was delighted to see students reading their work.
“I was completely blown away by the turnout given this story,” Dansdill said. “We had 60 people in there, which is pretty incredible.”
Dansdill hopes the future of the event will be even bigger and better.
Michael Yohe, a second-year health science student in the PT program, decided to attend the event just to enjoy it after writing a submission for the competition.
“I just wanted to express myself a bit more than just having it in my camera roll,” Yohe said.
Emma Grady, a first-year biology student, was one of the winners of the very very good mind awards.
“Recently, being here, I realized that I love writing and journaling,” Grady said. “So I thought it was like a good opportunity to test the waters.”
Grady said she was in shock when she was named the winner of the contest, she didn’t expect to be the winner, especially when all grade levels were competing.
“I’m very grateful, for sure,” Grady said.
Rooster Smith, a second-year biomedical science student, was another winner of the Very Very Good Spirit awards.
“I honestly didn’t expect it,” Smith said. “But I’m just glad I got to make people laugh, it was fun, that was my main goal.”
When he found out about the event, he became interested in listening to live music. He hopes Quinnipiac will continue to do events like this in the future.
“Honestly, I was sitting here at my desk and got the email and just thought that would be cool,” Smith said.
Jakob Potemri, a 3+1 film, television and media arts junior and English double major, also won the very-very good spirit awards.
“Especially since post-COVID it’s really nice to go to an in-person event,” Potemri said.
Potemri decided to attend the event because a few of his great English friends also submitted applications, it was a chance for them to get together and write, but also to attend an event. He said he’s been to other campus events such as open mics and songwriting events, but he didn’t expect to see a band playing songs like Werewolves of London.
“I love how active everyone seems here, they have all the instruments in place and it’s a real commitment,” Potemri said.
He said it was good to see his work recognized and to win an award, but it was cool to see a tribute given to a particular student, rather than a group of people.
“I think it was definitely a nice tribute to a Quinnipiac alumnus who was a creative writer and the fact that they’re continuing on his legacy is special in a way because in a lot of cases we don’t see not exactly that for individual students,” Potemri said.