The power of a gift: Everett Gabriel ’71 and Joseph Padavano ’17

Joseph Padavano '17 and his mentor and scholarship benefactor, Everett Gabriel '71 & '77G, at Gilbane headquarters in Providence.
Joseph Padavano ’17 and his mentor and scholarship benefactor, Everett Gabriel ’71 & ’77G, at Gilbane headquarters in Providence

By Vicki-Ann Downing

To express his gratitude to Providence College, Everett Gabriel ’71 & ’77G established a scholarship to help students like him. Then he went further and became a mentor to the recipient, Joseph Padavano ’17.

Through Gabriel, Padavano received not only scholarship aid, but career assistance and internships that led to a full-time job after graduation. He got advice about how to navigate the world after the death of his father. And when it was time to buy a house, Gabriel put him in touch with a real estate agent, lender, and insurance agent.

“There are a lot of scholarships,” said Padavano. “This is definitely more than a scholarship. More than any dollar amount. You can’t put a value on it. Basically, everything that’s happened to me from junior year on has come from Everett.”

Gabriel arrived at PC in 1967, a year after his father, a baker who also was named Everett, died unexpectedly. An only child, Gabriel had considered colleges far from home, but when his mother began attending support group meetings at PC with other women who had lost their husbands, the College seemed a natural fit. He commuted from Cranston and studied accountancy.

In 1969, Gabriel was sitting in the Alumni Hall cafeteria for an event men of his generation will remember — the national broadcast of the draft lottery. It determined the order in which men born between 1944 and 1950 would report for military service in Vietnam. Full-time students were exempt, but failing a class put one’s student status in jeopardy.

The numbers ranged from 001 to 365. Gabriel’s was low — 023. He would be among the first 
to be drafted. He found it hard to concentrate after that. His grades plummeted; he was ordered to meet with the dean. The College allowed him to attend summer school and remain a full-time student. After graduation, Gabriel served with the National Guard.

“Even in the mid-1970s, when I worked phonathons calling classmates for donations, I realized that PC had a
 small endowment compared to its sister schools, and that fundraising was just meeting the College’s everyday needs,” said Gabriel. “I was saying then that the endowment should be allowed to grow — that the College needed a long-term financial strategy.”

Gabriel dreamed about establishing a scholarship to benefit young people like himself. Finally, in 2007, after helping his four godchildren attend college, he approached his classmate, Bill O’Neil ’71, who worked in PC’s Office of Institutional Advancement, and asked for help in developing a plan to make the scholarship a reality.

Gabriel began raising money in earnest for his scholarship. He wanted to honor his family — not just his father, but also his mother, a clerk-typist for the state, who sacrificed so he could attend school.

“I was a punk as a kid. PC straightened my life out,” said
 Gabriel, who is vice president, 
assistant treasurer, and tax director
 at Gilbane, Inc., the construction management and real estate development company headquartered in downtown Providence. “I could have fallen by the wayside. The school stayed with me and allowed me to get my life back together. It taught me some maturity I had been lacking. I have this undying love for Providence College.”

Through the years, while working in corporate tax positions in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and earning an MBA from PC and a master’s degree in taxation from Bryant University, Gabriel maintained ties with PC’s National Alumni Association. He allowed PC students to shadow him on the job. In 2009, the Greater Providence chapter of the alumni association, known as the Mal Brown Club, gave him its Dr. William A. McDonnell Award for dedication to the College.

When his mother and aunt died, he contributed proceeds from their estates. Friends and cousins helped. Gilbane made matching gifts. Finally, in 2010, the Gabriel Family Scholarship — currently $5,800 a year for a student with financial need, with a preference for an accountancy or business major who has lost a parent or has a disabled parent — was awarded for the first time.

There have been four recipients so far. Gabriel made it a point to reach out to each of them to offer his help. In 2015, at PC’s annual dinner for scholarship donors and students, he met the third recipient — Padavano — and something clicked.

Joseph Padavano '17 holds a photo of his father, Louis, who died in 2011. Padavano and Everett Gabriel '71 & '77G both lost their fathers while in high school.
Joseph Padavano ’17 holds a photo of his father, Louis, who died in 2011. Padavano and Everett Gabriel ’71 & ’77G both lost their fathers while in high school.

Padavano was an accountancy major. His father, Louis, who worked for Con Edison, had died during his sophomore year at St.-Joseph-By-The-Sea High School in Staten Island, N.Y. Senior year, when his mother, Patricia, came to pick him up from lacrosse practice, there was a college fair at the school. His mother noted that only one college was represented by a Catholic priest
— Rev. Iriarte Andújar, O.P., PC’s associate dean of admission.

The priest caught Padavano’s attention, too. So did PC’s Development of Western Civilization Program.

“I went home and talked about PC a million times with my mom and read the brochures,” said Padavano. “The second I visited and saw it, I knew it was where I had to go. I applied through Early Decision, and I didn’t apply anywhere else. I was hooked on PC the moment I saw it.”

After the scholarship dinner in 2015, Padavano accepted an invitation to meet Gabriel at Gilbane.

“Everett invited me to talk about what I wanted to do,” said Padavano. “He told me his story about how he lost his father and the choices he made in life. We talked back and forth. From that time on he’s been a really fantastic person.”

Joseph Padavano '17 & Everett Gabriel '71 & '77G in Gabriel's office at Gilbane headquarters in Providence.
Joseph Padavano ’17 & Everett Gabriel ’71 & ’77G in Gabriel’s office at Gilbane headquarters in Providence.

Padavano told Gabriel he was uncertain whether to pursue public accounting or private accounting. Gabriel arranged two paid internships so he could try both. Padavano was a project accountant for Gilbane on the South Street Landing site in Providence. At Kahn Litwin Renza, also in Providence, he interned in the audit and tax departments, and KLR gave him a full-time job after graduation.

“With both internships, I wasn’t doing pointless, busy work,” said Padavano. “Once I started interning at KLR, I was actually auditing, using the stuff I had been learning for four years.”

During his senior year, as graduation approached, Padavano decided to use an inheritance from his grandmother to buy a house. “Team Gabriel” swung into action.

“You know how they say that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know?” asked Padavano. “Everett knows every person in every field in every inch of Rhode Island. His best friend is a real estate agent who found me a house. He knew a lender and an insurance agent.”

Padavano, who is the youngest of five and who has a large, extended family of aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews, now lives in Pawtucket with several housemates who were resident assistants with him at PC. Gabriel took them all to dinner to celebrate their graduation — and forwarded their résumés to his contacts.

“He’s a remarkable person,” said Padavano. “I’ve never met anyone who wanted to help people as much as he does. He is always checking on people’s career paths, asking how they’re doing.”

Gabriel calls Padavano “a unique kid. We’ve gotten to be good friends. I’ve met his family, his mother, his sister.”

He has only one request: that Padavano remember to “pay it forward.”

“Don’t worry. Once I’m a little bit on my feet financially, I will donate to the scholarship fund,” Padavano said. “Trust me, Everett will remind me.”

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