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Needham Scholars Story

Scholarship Offers Boundless Opportunities to Students with Limitless Potential

2019 Needham Scholars, Lisa Pietrafesa and Sal Xheraj

Three years ago, after the end of classes and exams, Andrew Rosman, dean of the University’s Silberman College of Business, invited Lisa Pietrafasa to meet with him, ostensibly so that she could share her thoughts about her first year as a business student.

She said she would be happy to help, although she found it odd that the dean also invited her mother to the meeting.

As it turned out, the dean was guilty of a bit of subterfuge. He actually wanted to share some life-changing news with Pietrafasa, BS’19 (Florham). She was about to receive the second FDU Robert S. Needham Memorial Scholarship in Business.

Named for alumnus Robert Needham, BS’64 (Ruth), who graduated magna cum laude, the eponymous foundation provides assistance and grants to New Jersey college students. His family established the Foundation to honor Needham’s memory after he passed away unexpectedly in his early 40s.

FDU’s Needham Scholarship is the Foundation’s signature and most significant award, according to John Newman, who serves as a trustee of the Foundation.

The scholarship, awarded to a rising sophomore at FDU, is transformational; it covers full tuition, fees and board in the form of an annual scholarship for a full-time student in FDU’s Silberman College of Business. The recipient is granted the award for their sophomore, junior and senior years. It is awarded every three years; before Pietrafasa, the scholarship went to Nicholas Woodhull, BS’13 (Florham), now a vice president at Goldman Sachs.

Pietrafasa, whose two siblings and father are all FDU alumni, was captain of the Devils cheer team; is active in her church; and says her family has a longstanding commitment to community service. She’s currently enrolled in the MBA program at FDU. She credits the scholarship with enabling her to take fullest advantage of the opportunities available at FDU. “I was able to accept unpaid internships in my junior and senior years because I didn’t have to work,” she says. “[The internships] really taught me what marketing means in a real-world sense,” she says. Her goal is to put her marketing degrees to work in the fashion industry.

Like Pietrafasa, sophomore Sal Xheraj didn’t expect transformative news when one of his professors, Maureen Kieff, summoned him to her office. Xheraj told his mother that he was concerned that he’d missed an assignment. So when Kieff shared that he’d been awarded the Needham scholarship, he called his mother at work to tell her the good news. “She didn’t believe me,” Xheraj says. “I had to ask Professor Kieff to get on the phone with her.”

Xheraj, who is majoring in accounting and dreams of working at one of the big four accounting firms, says that he credits his mother, a CPA, with instilling in him the strict work ethic that the scholarship recognizes. In addition to a full load of classes, Xheraj has made himself a fixture on the Metropolitan Campus, working as an orientation leader, serving as the freshman representative for the Student Government Association, and masquerading as Knightro, the Metropolitan Campus mascot.

The Needham scholarship will enable Xheraj to live on campus in the fall, something he says he is looking forward to. “It will be great to be able to stay on campus for a class or an event and not have to drive home afterward,” he says. “I am looking forward to playing an even bigger role on campus than I already do.”