Carmen Effron wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps. Kenneth Arminio, a career, Boston College and Neag-trained educator, taught at Pomperaug High School from 1951 until his death on Christmas Day 1968.
“I found when he died … it was a huge, huge service because he really touched the lives of many people,” she recalls. Inspired, she herself went into teacher education at the Neag School following his death. “I thought, ‘yeah, that’s what I’ll do.’ But when I did my student teaching, I realized it just wasn’t my cup of tea.”
So, she stayed at UConn, but switched to business, where she earned her master’s of business administration. She has since created and operated CF Effron Co. and Effron Burke Associates, both Weston-based international and domestic consulting businesses she describes as “an intersection of finance, banking and insurance.”
And, in 2007, she set up the Arminio/Effron Scholarship in the Neag School of Education. She did that in memory of her father, but also to celebrate the attributes of the Neag School she learned of first as a student there, and then from her nine years as a member of the dean’s advisory board.
“For many years, it gave me the opportunity to meet a number of the students and find out about their enthusiasm and how they work,” she says of her advisory board affiliation. “If you want to get excited, you just have to talk to the students at the Neag School,” she says, adding that the school’s criteria are so selective, “I probably couldn’t get into the program now.”
As a pre-teacher at Neag, she learned about her father’s profession inside and out. He had emigrated from Italy and focused on language. At Woodbury, he headed the foreign language department and advised the senior class, employing his signature common sense and patience, Effron says, the latter trait not being part of her own DNA.
“One of the things I am is incredibly impatient,” she laughs, “and teaching requires a lot of patience.”
When she was first approached to join the Neag dean’s advisory board, she thought, “All they really want is money.” But then she met then-Dean Richard Schwab and Tom DeFranco, Neag’s current dean, and decided she wanted to be a part of the school that spawned Teachers for a New Era and the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.
“It’s exposure. What I wish is that more people could get engaged with the Neag School and understand what a terrific job they do. They have some fabulous professors and research. It’s such an exciting place to be,” she says.
Effron points to the success Neag has in creating a model for its faculty and researchers to continuously re-evaluate programs and prepare future teachers to go forth and create model schools. “I believe teaching is an art and a science, and what Teachers for a New Era does is help the science side,” she says.
A large part of Effron’s drive to set up the scholarship came from her own experience. As the middle of five daughters in her family who all went to college – education was always her father’s focus – she worked during the summers. That meant she couldn’t do internships or take opportunities that would further her education in non-monetary ways. “I wanted to give money to students so in the summer session they can do something else and not necessarily have to work,” she says.
Recent recipients of the Arminio/Effron Scholarship, which is awarded to full-time students pursuing careers in teaching and having excellent academic records, include Kathleen Pittman of Meriden, 2008; Danielle Olivier of Rhode Island, 2009; and Asia Boxton of Wolcott, 2010. The 2011 winner has not yet been named but will be honored in an April celebration.
Dean DeFranco comments on her work, “Carmen has been a great friend and supporter of the Neag School. Her scholarship provides a way to honor her father’s legacy and demonstrates her passion for teacher education and improving the lives of children in schools across Connecticut as well as the nation.”
Effron is not sure what the endowment is now worth: “I just give it; I don’t know what they do with it,” she says. But when loved ones ask what they can do for her to celebrate a special occasion, she suggests a donation to the fund, managed through the UConn Foundation.
Frank Gifford, vice president for development at the foundation, says that donations from family and friends is a great way to keep an endowment healthy, and his staff offers help with wording and setting up such requests to mark special anniversaries. “The intention of a scholarship, particularly when it’s endowed, is to go into perpetuity,” he says. “It’s a living thing.”
And scholarship namesakes like Kenneth Arminio have a place in the pantheon of educators.
“He always loved to be with the kids,” Effron says. “He had a tremendous influence on all of our lives.” She notes that Arminio earned his master’s at Neag (’54) but was unable to finish his doctoral thesis while teaching full time and raising five daughters. “That will do it,” Effron jokes about her father, both the consummate parent and teacher.
“A really good teacher is so valuable. He would think the money was really worth going toward that,” she says.
Anyone who wishes to start a scholarship like Effron’s should contact Frank Gifford at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 860-486-6798.