A new scholarship has been established at Albany Law School to honor John DeMatteo, the law school’s longtime maintenance supervisor, often affectionately called “Dad” by both crew members and students over the years for his wisdom, kindness, work ethic, and sense of humor.
The John DeMatteo Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to a male or female rugby player and/or a male or female United States armed forces veteran.
“John DeMatteo was like an all-purpose player on a major league sports team. He could play every position. He of course knew the custodial end of the business, but he also knew the supervisory end of the business,” said Bill Pulos ’80, who is spearheading the scholarship effort. “He served as a confidant for not only students under his tutelage, but also for faculty members, staff, and administrators. He was a gardener. He was a groundskeeper, he was a truck driver. And in many ways, he was a little bit like Santa Claus because just when you thought that you were having a big problem, many times he would come by with a kind word with some kind of gesture, a cup of coffee, a quarter or a suggestion, or maybe even a solution to whatever issue you thought you were having.”
DeMatteo, who passed in 2011, worked at the law school for more than 34 years. He often hired students to assist with cleaning the 1928 building from top to bottom each night and supervise the parking lot. The student hires helped keep the halls tidy but the job was also a way of surviving for many, including Pulos.
The job itself wasn’t glamorous but it fostered a sense of community and friendship. During breaks, DeMatteo would often gather a few crew members for card games accompanied by .25 cent grape sodas from the cafeteria vending machine.
“I came to school with no money in my pocket. None. I didn't even have my student loans lined up,” Pulos said. “That monthly check, it just wasn't pocket money. It’s how we paid our rent. It's how we went down to Price Chopper and bought food.”
Giving back to the next generation of law students creates a two-fold opportunity to ease the financial burden for students and honor the legacy of someone who embodied that giving spirit.
“It didn't matter if you were faculty, administration, staff, students, guests. No matter who it was, he was polite. He was diligent. He was helpful. And if somebody asked him for something or asked him to do something, he did it. He knew the place inside and out,” Pulos said. “He was the beating heart of Albany Law School.”
DeMatteo was a humble guy, Pulos said. In fact, none of the students on the maintenance crew were aware of DeMatteo’s military service. He served in the Army during the Korean War and was awarded the Bronze Star three times and other numerous ribbons and accommodations.
“Year after year, as all of us went through as students and passed through the building, John was there day in, day out. He never looked for public recognition. He never was looking for any kind of celebration. He was just solid as a rock. He was always there,” Pulos said. “We all got started at Albany Law School and as everybody has gone on and become who we are and go on with our careers, it was John DeMatteo that kept that place going, kept the lights on, kept the place clean. And were it not for him, all of our lives would be different. This scholarship will ensure John DeMatteo’s legacy lives on.”
To give to this scholarship, please make a gift online or mail checks to Albany Law School 80 New Scotland Avenue, Albany, New York 12208 and specify “The John P. DeMatteo Scholarship Fund."