Grotto Pizza patriarch Joseph Paglianite of Harveys Lake says his sister, Catherine Paglianite Martini, was a Misericordia University alumna who loved being an elementary school teacher and dedicated her life to education. He could think of no better way to honor her memory than to start a scholarship in her name at her alma mater, making it easier for future students to achieve their dream careers in the education field.
The Catherine Paglianite Martini ’41 Scholarship, established in 2014, was recognized as the featured scholarship at the Misericordia University 31st annual Scholarship Recognition Day held virtually on Sunday, April 25. The scholarship is awarded annually to a first-year student majoring in elementary education. The annual celebration, held virtually for the first time, brought together student scholarship recipients and their benefactors from across the country for the chance to meet and share stories. More than 300 Misericordia students received endowed or named scholarships this academic year.
The 95-year-old Paglianite is well-known as co-founder of the Grotto Pizza empire that includes 20 popular restaurants in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. He remains president of the Harveys Lake location, where he established the first Grotto Pizza in 1953. Together with his brother-in-law, Dominic Pulieri, they opened a second location in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, in 1960. Still under their leadership more than 60 years later, the company has grown to include numerous beachside locations along the mid-Atlantic coast, along with restaurants in Kingston, Wilkes-Barre and Harveys Lake.
Mr. Paglianite recalls being a youngster about 10 years old when his oldest sister, Catherine, told their parents she wanted to be a teacher. Facing the challenges of a family of modest income, she applied to College Misericordia and their dad bought her a used car so she could commute from their home in Wyoming to campus. She provided rides to girlfriends, who in turn helped pay for gas and cover the car’s expenses. She earned her education degree in 1941.
Catherine began teaching at the Wyoming Area School District, and subsequently moved with her husband, Angelo Martini, to western Pennsylvania, where she enjoyed a life-long career in elementary education with the Pittsburgh School District.
“Catherine had an absolutely outstanding personality, and just loved Misericordia and loved teaching,” Paglianite recalls. “I was the youngest of four siblings, and she would make a point to help me with my schooling and made sure I got through high school. She was the only one of the four of us to earn a college degree. She’d be happy to see how her scholarship is helping an education student attain the same quality education she received.”
Early childhood and special education major Karina Armetta ’22, Honesdale, the recipient of the Catherine Paglianite Martini ’41 Scholarship, offered remarks on what the award means to her. She and her mother, Brenda Armetta, met with Paglianite at a brunch hosted by Misericordia President Kathleen Owens, Ph.D.
Mr. Paglianite, and his wife, Erma, have started endowments for two additional scholarships. The Anna Paglianite Mascioli Scholarship was established in 2018 to honor his second oldest sister, who he says was very active and instrumental in helping grow the family’s pizza business. The scholarship will be awarded to eligible Misericordia University students who are pursuing a business degree.
The third family scholarship fund is named in honor of Mr. Paglianite’s late, first wife, Mary Jean Pulieri Paglianite, who died at age 43 from a congenital heart condition. “We were married for 25 years, and she lived a fruitful life despite the progression of her disease,” he says. “She didn’t let her illness stop her from pursuing her ambitions, even when it meant doing things over the telephone when she was unable to leave the house.” The Mary Jean Pulieri Paglianite Scholarship, also established in 2018, will be awarded annually to a student in a medical or health sciences major.
Mr. Paglianite’s philanthropy extends beyond scholarship support. He is a member of Misericordia University’s Heart of Mercy Society, and as such, has placed Misericordia into his estate planning. He also established the Joseph & Erma Paglianite Charitable Foundation, to help community projects in the region.
“Joe Paglianite is an icon throughout the Mid-Atlantic, and a legendary business owner whose actions will help countless Misericordia students,” said Susan Helwig, vice president of University Advancement, Misericordia University. “Endowed scholarships change the lives of generations of students. We are beyond grateful for his philanthropy and happy to be able share his story of generosity.”
Photo 1:Joseph Paglianite of Harveys Lake was recognized for his philanthropy during the 31st annual Scholarship Recognition Day program at Misericordia University. Paglianite was honored for establishing the Catherine Paglianite Martini ’41 Scholarship, which honors his late sister, a life-long educator.
Photo 2: Early childhood and special education major Karina Armetta ’22, Honesdale, the recipient of the Catherine Paglianite Martini ’41 Scholarship.