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Family legacy lives on through scholarships

When William "Billy" Peduto, A53, of Brighton, Mass., died last fall at 90, an inscription in his testimonial guest-book read, "The country was built on the backs of men like Mr. Peduto." The spirit that drove Billy Peduto and his Italian-American parents to reach for their American dream now has inspired a pair of scholarships that will help a new generation of hard-working students realize the opportunity of a Tufts education.

"Theirs is a story of triumph, love, and perseverance," says Brigette Bryant, senior director of development for Arts & Sciences. Indeed, the Peduto family's story echoes many in this nation of immigrants. Rosaria Marino arrived at Ellis Island in 1910 from a small town in southern Italy, and within three years had married Joseph Peduto. They moved from New York to Brighton, where sons Danti and Billy were born, and Joseph found work as a laborer. Times often were hard. Joseph Peduto was a three-dollar-a-day construction worker in the days before hard hats, and in 1940, he suffered a head injury that permanently disabled him. "The family never had much, except love and each other," Bryant said. "Rosaria was the driving force behind the family, instilling in her boys the need to stay close and to look after one another." Both brothers graduated from Brighton High, and served in the U.S. Army in the Second World War.

In the war, Billy was blinded in battle, receiving the Purple Heart. Afterward, as a disabled veteran, he attended Tufts under the GI Bill. Tufts provided him with a reader for his lessons, and Billy graduated in 1953 with a degree in sociology. "Billy, with his Tufts education, and through wise investments, went on to amass a sizeable fortune," Bryant said. "What a story that he would choose to give it to Tufts."

To help future students have the same opportunity for a Tufts education, Billy Peduto intended to leave much of his estate to the university to provide financial aid to undergraduates in the School of Arts & Sciences. After Billy Peduto passed away last year, his brother Danti carried out his wishes. The result is a pair of endowed scholarships valued at an estimated $3.5 million.

The William L. Peduto, A53, Endowed Scholarship will assist students of diverse backgrounds who might not otherwise be able to attend Tufts. The Joseph G. and Rosaria Marino Peduto Endowed Scholarship, named for the parents of Billy and Danti Peduto, will provide aid to deserving A&S undergraduates.

"Billy was ever curious, always seeking knowledge, a perpetual learner," Bryant said. "Tufts was right for him because it allowed him to nurture his intellectual nature and explore things of interest to him. All he wanted was to give to future generations what Tufts had given him: a solid education and an opportunity for a new life.

"Blindness never stopped Billy. Adversity never squelched this family's formidable spirit," Bryant said. "I bet Rosaria and Joseph would have been extremely proud of their boys."