June 11, 2013

Rotarian Mike Skinner gave us some history of the Joe Villa Scholarship before President Caryl gave this year’s recipient, Xueer (“Cher”) Jiang her check.


History of the Joe Villa Scholarship


Joseph Villa was a prominent Albany Rotarian, a past president (1938-39) and Paul Harris Fellow.  A first-generation Italian American, he grew up in the city of Albany, initially working in a produce market. Eventually, he became the owner of a chain of local markets and stores under the name of JV Liquors and JV Markets.  At least one liquor store under the  JV Liquor name still operates in Albany.

The Joseph and Dorothy Villa Scholarship was created in 1982 as a way for Joe to give back to the community that he lived and worked in.  He designed the scholarship to help students like himself who had to work or overcome some adversity through their high school years.

The first scholarship award was presented in May of 1983.  The fund was started with a donation from the Villa’s with the idea that the accrued annual interest would be sufficient to fund the scholarships.  The fund has given out over 50 scholarships to date.  Current Albany Rotarians can donate to the Villa fund as part of their annual dues payments.

Each year, several Albany Rotarians form a committee and interview local high school seniors who apply for the scholarship.  The student should have goals toward a higher education and a planned direction either to college or a trade school. The recipient is not necessarily the most academically qualified or the most active in their school, but has to demonstrate the ability to overcome obstacles in life and still achieve their desired goals.  Need, ambition, well roundedness and community involvement are all considered during the selection process.

Al Nicora (past Albany Rotary president 1984-85) was the Villa’s personal attorney and is still involved in the process of  notifying the three high schools in Albany about the scholarship opportunity and transmitting applications to the selection committee.  The actual Villa fund is administered in a separate account by our Club treasurer.  In recent years, a high proportion of recipients have been recent immigrants, who like Joe, had to overcome language and cultural problems but still performed well.