Spotlight On: Kean University Alumna Ina Giardina ’63 ‘67

October 2023

Carmen Cicero

Luck, Passion, and Generosity Combine to Create an Impactful Legacy for Kean University Alumna Ina Giardina '63 '67

According to Ina Giardina ’63 ’67, it was plain luck that led her to attend Kean University, which was then Newark State College. She began her college career at Jersey City State College. However, soon after, Ina relocated from Newark to Elizabeth, New Jersey. She then discovered that Newark State was within walking distance of her new home and made the decision to transfer schools to save on commuting costs. Ina completed her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education at Kean and began a career in teaching.

It was, it was a bit providential that Ina became an educator at all. She does not recall particularly enjoying school in her youth and, while her parents encouraged her to study and do well, they did not have much educational opportunity themselves. Therefore, they did not know how to guide Ina in the direction of higher education. It was during her high school years that her life’s direction began to take shape. “I had really great teachers at Weequahic High School, located in Newark,” she said. “A number of them held doctorates and I admired their enthusiasm and dedication.” Ina began enjoying learning and, when her peers began to apply to college, she decided she should as well.

"Kean gives a lot of people the opportunity to fulfill a lot of their aspirations. I am happy to help keep it going and growing.”

Following her graduation in 1963, Ina became one of those really great teachers herself. She obtained a position in the Newark school system and it was not long before she was back on Kean’s campus, pursuing her master’s degree in the evenings after teaching all day. Upon achieving her advanced degree, she was offered the opportunity to specialize in English as a Second Language (ESL) at a time when bilingual education was becoming a national norm. Ina challenged her students and succeeded in helping them – and, by extension, their families. Was this timing lucky? No! Rather, it is an example of finding opportunities and pursuing interests that can become passions. It is a trait that Ina exemplifies and inspires in others.

Several years ago, during Ina’s teaching career, she received a gift of a beautiful antique sterling silver and ivory bracelet. She loved it so much that she went to the antique shop to see if there would be earrings available to compliment it. The dealer had a necklace and earring set that was perfect – but could only be sold as a set. Ina purchased the set, keeping the earrings and selling the necklace to a friend. Thus began her second career as an antiques dealer. After retiring from teaching, what started as a “side-gig” has now become a full-time profession and passion. Ina’s expertise in finding unique treasures can be seen at her shop in the Summit Antiques Center, which carries a wide range of timeless furniture, art, jewelry and more.

Alumna Ina Giardina ’63 ‘67

Another interest which has become an important part of Ina’s life is her involvement with the Kean University Foundation. She reconnected with Kean during a class reunion celebration and was impressed by the University’s growth. Ina began attending Kean’s theater performances and art gallery exhibits, often joking that her attendance now makes up for the fact that she did not have the time to take advantage of many extracurricular offerings while working full-time as student. She volunteered to serve on Kean’s former University Arts Council and has been a consistent supporter of the Kean Fund for Excellence. When asked what motivates her support, Ina stated, “Kean gives a lot of people the opportunity to fulfill a lot of their aspirations. I am happy to help keep it going and growing.”

To continue to impact Kean students’ success, Ina has thoughtfully provided for a legacy gift in her estate plans. Her planned bequest will benefit student scholarships. Ina was inspired to make this arrangement given her interactions with her own students and with many Kean students over the years. “There is always a need for financial assistance; a little outside help can make a big difference,” she stated. In fact, a little outside help makes an immeasurable difference! As the students who have received support graduate and follow opportunities that become their passions, they will impact others around them, just as Ina has. The Kean University Foundation is grateful – and lucky – that Kean became part of Ina’s life journey and, through her thoughtful planning, a place where her legacy will continue forever.