Kean Graduate Honors Parents, Professors with Endowed Scholarship
A 2011 Kean University graduate is giving back to his alma mater with a scholarship for communication students in honor of his parents and two of his former professors in the Department of Communication, Media and Journalism (CMJ).
Michael Milazzo, a partner at Latham & Watkins LLP in New York, created the Martha Gillen and Budd Milazzo Endowed Scholarship Honoring Jack Sargent and Fred Fitch with a $50,000 donation. It is named after his parents and CMJ Associate Professor and Chair Jack Sargent, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor Fred Fitch, Ph.D. The scholarship will be awarded annually to CMJ students with between 60 and 95 credits.
“I enjoyed my time at Kean University immensely,” Milazzo said. “Everything I have today can be attributed to my parents and professors. I am especially grateful to Jack Sargent and Fred Fitch for their friendship and help along the way. If not for them, I don't think I would have ever found my confidence, ever found my footing, to go on to become a partner at an international law firm.”
The scholarship can be applied to tuition, fees or room and board, and strong preference will be given to New Jersey residents with financial need. Bill Miller, CEO of the Kean University Foundation, said it will positively impact the academic experience of Kean students.
“We are very appreciative and excited that alumni like Mike are continuing to invest in Kean University,” Miller said. “Through this scholarship, we can offer students pursuing a degree in communication transformational opportunities as well as philanthropic resources that can get them over the finish line to graduation and beyond.”
Milazzo grew up in North Brunswick and initially attended Rutgers University but decided not to continue after his first year. He took some time off, and, encouraged by his parents, enrolled at Middlesex College and then transferred to Kean in 2009.
During his first year at Kean, he was taught by both Sargent and Fitch and admired how both professors encouraged and inspired their students. Sargent recalls Milazzo as an engaged student who made the most of his time at the University.
“He stood out. He wasn't your typical undergraduate student,” Sargent said. “He was a little bit older, a little bit more mature, but he certainly made his presence known in terms of coming in and asking what he could do to help the department and where he could volunteer. He volunteered in our speech lab, anywhere he could.”
Fitch and Sargent said they are surprised and humbled by Milazzo’s generosity and the lasting recognition he has given them.
“Mike’s gift is probably the highest honor a professor can receive because it’s going to keep on giving back,” Fitch said. “I broke down and cried. There is no feeling like it, and I never would have dreamed of this.”
Sargent called Milazzo, a former CMJ student of the year, “an amazing person” who will always be a part of the communication department family.
“It is heartwarming and gratifying to know that I’ve helped Mike reach where he is today,” Sargent said. “I am proud of him, our department and all of the faculty who support our students, who will now benefit because of the positive experiences Mike had at Kean and his generosity in giving back to the University.”
Milazzo hopes the scholarship will stand as a tribute to his parents who never gave up on him and the professors who helped him find his way. He encourages all alumni who have built successful careers with their Kean degrees to remember that current and future students need their support.
“Continue to embody all the ideals and characteristics that brought you to Kean and remember that giving back is a way to pay it forward and honor those who have given to you and helped motivate and push you forward,” he said.