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Updated: March 2014
You know, you get what you give, and she gave everything she had at all times,” reflected Francis “Fran” Charette on his late wife Joanne LaMalva Charette. “Joanne was so special; she had a zest for life and an appreciation for others. Most importantly, she had an unselfish desire to help people.”
When this remarkable woman died of the rare genetic cancer multiple endocrine neoplasia type II in January 2010, Fran was determined to do something to ensure that her name—and her spirit of giving—lived on. Already a supporter of the UMass Medicine Cancer Walk, he redoubled his fundraising efforts for this annual event and established the Joanne Charette Memorial Scholarship Fund in 2012. Knowing others would want to honor Joanne’s memory, Fran invited friends and family to contribute to the scholarship fund. The outpouring of support that resulted left Fran both “humbled and gratified.”
The scholarship will be directed to students who, like Joanne, have faced medical hardship—either personally or in their family—yet, despite these challenges, are continuing to pursue their dream of a career in medicine. The first scholarship is anticipated to be awarded in the coming year.
Fran chose to honor Joanne’s memory with a gift to the Medical School for many reasons, among them being his relationship with, and deep respect for, Joanne’s physician and longtime friend Neil Aronin, MD, professor of medicine, cell & developmental biology and microbiology & physiological systems at UMMS.
“Joanne believed in Dr. Aronin so much,” said Fran. “He taught her a lot, and she taught him a lot, too. He’s still an intricate part of our makeup.”
Fran believes that this scholarship is a fitting remembrance for Joanne, who had a lifelong passion for teaching and helping others. She served for many years as professor and chairperson of the Business Department, and as assistant dean, at Anna Maria College in Paxton, Mass., before earning her PhD in business management and becoming a certified financial planner.
A retired finish carpenter who also lost his first wife to cancer, Fran hopes that this scholarship will play a small role in the fight against the disease.
“I think someday someone’s going to cure cancer, and maybe this scholarship will help that happen,” he said.