picture of Valerie Rott Garofalo

Valerie Rott Garofalo


Alumna Gives the Gift of Music

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Valerie Rott Garofalo ’67 has felt the pull to music for as long as she can remember. Her father, a violinist at the Juilliard School until he was drafted into service during WWII, filled their home with music. He unknowingly served as the catalyst that would later inspire Garofalo to donate her beautiful, beloved Steinway & Sons Baby Grand Piano to Marywood University. Her generous donation, valued at $50,000, allows Marywood’s music students the opportunity to practice their art on an instrument renowned for its high-quality sound and superior craftsmanship.

IHM Sisters have been central to Garofalo’s education, affirming her connection to the University and desire to give back. She first experienced IHM leadership as an elementary student at St. Ephrem Catholic Academy in Brooklyn, NY. To continue her IHM education in secondary school, Garofalo moved to Pennsylvania to attend Marywood Seminary, “that glorious school in the mountains,” which shared a campus with Marywood University, then College, and educated young women grades 9-12 who all seemed to have such musical talent. Garofalo fell in love with Marywood Seminary, and with that, her love for music bloomed as well.

After graduating from the Seminary and returning home to New York, Garofalo realized how desperately she missed Marywood’s rich green campus. Feeling that she was being called back to Marywood, Garofalo took a gap year to focus on her piano prowess to meet the rigorous program guidelines of Marywood’s Music program. One year later, Garofalo returned to Marywood’s campus, this time for her post-secondary education as a Music Education major. Garofalo went on to earn a BM in Music Education, one of the original degree programs the University has offered since its inception. Garofalo’s bond with her fellow music major coursemates ran deep: at their graduation in 1967, the cohort vowed to return to campus every five years until their 50th reunion in 2017.

During her thirty-three years as an expansive musical education teacher, Garofalo maintained her vow, keeping Marywood close to her heart. Her contribution of her beloved Steinway complements her steadfast commitment to supporting music programming at Marywood. However, the Steinway is not Garofalo’s first commitment to her alma mater.

In 2017, through a leadership gift for her 50th reunion, Garofalo helped her class to establish the Class of 1967 Music Graduates’ Scholarship, an endowed scholarship to aid students, much like herself, in pursuing their love of music. With her donation of the Steinway, Garofalo further enhances the student experience in the Music, Theatre, and Dance department and for all music lovers on campus.

Dr. Rick Hoffenberg, Associate Professor, Director of Choral Activities, and Co-Chair of the Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance at Marywood University, calls Garofalo’s donation a truly transformative gift. “It is one of the finest instruments Marywood has ever acquired, ideal for solo, chamber, and ensemble performances,” he notes. “It will give advanced pianists who attend Marywood the opportunity to play on a world-class instrument, and it will provide listening pleasure to audiences for many years to come.” 


Junior Accounting major, Jack Walsh, playing the piano; photo taken by David Orrson on Saturday, March 2, 2024 at the Marywood University Orchestra concert.

Purchased in 2004, Garofalo described owning her Steinway as “a dream come true.” When she and her husband, Joseph, relocated to Florida to retire, transporting the piano was an important part of their move. After many years of creating beautiful music in their new home, Garofalo decided that her Steinway could better serve to inspire a student’s love for music, as she had been inspired herself. Garofalo decided to gift her cherished Steinway to her alma mater, where it could be treasured by every student who sits before it. Thus, the Steinway returned back up the East Coast, where it now has its permanent home at the University on the main stage in the Munley Theatre at the Sette LaVerghetta Center for the Performing Arts.

To the students who will play on the Steinway piano, Garofalo jokingly beseeches them one command: “Be careful!” In earnest, she advises them, “Stick with it. You have a gift–use it as best you can. The arts truly make a difference in the world. Always be true to yourself and never give up your musical gifts.” 


Join us as a supporter of the EMPOWER campaign and help provide opportunities like this to future generations of Marywood students.