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A Lasting Legacy:
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Meet the 2008 SPH Alumni Board of Governers
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A New Scholarship
A Lasting Legacy: Dorothy C. Calafiore always knew the value of education. It helped her overcome hardships and tragedy to become an internationally respected professional. When she passed away in 2007 at the age of 88, she had made provisions to support several institutions of higher learning, including the UM, which had helped her on her career path.
Born in 1919, Calafiore was the youngest of five siblings raised by a single mother in Baltimore, Maryland. She married “the love of her life,” Frank Calafiore, in 1942, and while he served abroad in the 310th Engineer Battalion, she volunteered as a Red Cross aide on the home front. Frank returned home at the end of the war and took up work as an electrician, but he was killed in a tragic accident in 1947, leaving Dorothy alone and facing an uncertain future.
Drawing on her wartime training, she enrolled in nursing school at the University of Maryland, earning her diploma in 1951. It was the first step in what would be a long and distinguished career. She went to work for the U.S. Public Health Service, becoming a Captain in the Office of Commissioned Corps Support Services. Over the next decade, Calafiore went on to earn a BS degree at the University of Minnesota, then received her MPH and DrPH degrees at the University of Michigan.
Calafiore never remarried. Her niece, Karen Peters, remembers her aunt’s tales of traveling on freighters among the Pacific Islands, when she would sleep wrapped in a grass mat on the ship’s deck, one time waking up next to a pig.
She led a life of travel and adventure while researching the spread and prevention of infectious diseases.
She studied everything from histoplasmosis (surviving a near-fatal encounter with the disease) to air pollution. Probably her single greatest accomplishment was helping with the development of the first measles vaccine in 1963. She was one of several co-authors with Donald A. Henderson (known for his vital work in the international effort to eradicate smallpox) of an important measles study published that year in the American Journal of Public Health, and she continued to assert the importance of the role of nurses in eradicating measles in the United States.
As well as a scholar and researcher, Calafiore was an educator, teaching generations of nursing students. She had no children of her own, but her influence shaped many lives.
“She had quite a bit of an effect on me,” remembers Peters, an occupational therapist in Pennsylvania. “When I first started going to college, I didn’t have a clue what to do with myself.” Calafiore thought her niece’s talents might be suited to a career in occupational therapy. She encouraged Peters to look into the field, and arranged for her to spend a week observing occupational therapy at the Walter Reed National Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Polite and gracious, “always a lady,” in the words of Peters, Calafiore was also a strong-minded individual, meticulous in her affairs. Having lived through the economic tribulations of the Depression and wartime, she took care to manage her finances well. “She was always very careful with her money,” says Peters. Calafiore did her own investing and by the time she reached retirement, she had established a substantial nest egg. She planned to divide it between her surviving relatives and the three universities where she had earned her degrees.
When emphysema finally overcame her, Calafiore herself signed the consent papers to disconnect the ventilator that was keeping her alive. “Right to the very end, she was in control,” recalls her niece. Her bequest of $260,000 to the University of Michigan will endow the Dorothy C. Calafiore Scholarship Fund, to benefit nursing students at the School of Public Health. She leaves a legacy and a life’s work to inspire future generations.
Making a Difference Then and Now
Professor emerita of public health nursing, Lillian Ostrand, remembered public health in her estate plans, and upon her passing in 2007, the School of Public Health received a generous gift for the UM SPH Enrichment Fund.
Dean Warner noted that “Professor Ostrand was a highly respected teacher, public health nursing adviser, and consultant. She had an ongoing concern for patients as people, and passed that along to her students.”
The UM SPH Enrichment Fund invests in students, research, and innovative projects as part of the school’s strategy to remain in the top tier of public health institutions nationally.
Photo: Lillian at the 2003 UM SPH Nursing Reunion