Late Special Education Teacher Leaves $1 Million to Students

For 45 years, Genevieve Via Cava taught and helped students with learning disabilities in Dumont, New Jersey. It was her life.

In 2008, she told the superintendent of her school district, Emanuele Triggiano, that she would donate a million dollars to the Dumont School District. He assumed it was hyperbole, and laughed it off. When she passed away in 2011, he remembered her life of service and education, but not the off-hand promise.

This April, he was reminded of the “joke” in the best way possible—by a check for $1 million from Via Cava’s estate.

It may seem strange that a woman working in special education for a public school district could amass a million-dollar nest egg, but Via Cava lived a quiet, frugal life, and most of her needs were taken care of by her late husband’s pension. With no children or close family, her only thought of a legacy was towards the students to whom she dedicated her entire life.

James Kennedy, a friend of Via Cava, said that she would continue to help her special education students into their adult lives, as long as 20 years after they graduated her classes.

“She had an uncanny memory when it came to her students and could remember things that happened a long time ago,” said Kennedy. He met her as a student himself, and then proceeded to work with her as an adult, when he became director of special services and later principal of one of the schools in her district.

The money Via Cava donated will be invested, the interest to provide scholarships to special education students from Dumont School District seeking opportunities in secondary education, $25,000 at a time. An incredible legacy from a woman who no doubt has left many such legacies in the people she helped to shape.