Lidia Marisa Vallarino, Ph.D., who retired as a professor from the Department of Chemistry in the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences, died January 22, 2017. Affectionately known in the department “Dr. V,” she was a prolific scholar, authored over 80 publications in international journals, held six patents, co-authored four chemistry textbooks and served the VCU Department of Chemistry for nearly three decades. Her energy and passion for chemistry were tireless, and it shows in the rich legacy she leaves at VCU.
Vallarino received a doctorate in chemistry in 1954 from the University of Milano, Italy and later moved to the United States where her husband, James Quagliano, was a Professor of Chemistry at Florida State University. Despite her many accomplishments in the field and the associate professor teaching position she held at her alma mater in Italy, she found restarting her career in a foreign country challenging. “There were so few women in U.S. chemistry then,” she recalled during an interview in 2009.
Eventually Vallarino’s perseverance propelled her to teaching positions at the College of William and Mary and Auburn University, but it was VCU that became Vallarino’s academic home in 1980. Her dedication to the students and her research was indefatigable. “I have found the atmosphere here at VCU to be extraordinarily stimulating and satisfying — a challenge and a joy,” Vallarino said. She loved the VCU community, and it loved her back—she was honored by the university with its Distinguished Teaching Award in 1990.
That love of chemistry and her department inspired her to make gifts of more than $100,000 to establish two important endowments at VCU—the Lidia Vallarino Research Fund and the James V. Quagliano Fellowship in Chemistry. Later in 2007, her children, John R. Quagliano, Peter V. Quagliano and Mary L. Blunt, created an additional endowment, the Lidia M. Vallarino Scholarship, to honor her service at the university. These three funds encourage the same passion and drive in research that Vallarino demonstrated with her extraordinary career. “Dr. Lidia Vallarino was a pioneer and believed in the importance of Chemistry and it showed through her actions as a faculty member and as a philanthropist,” says Bethanie Constant, senior director of advancement for the College of Humanities and Sciences. “Since Lidia’s passing, gifts in her honor and memory have been coming in from peers and alumni who knew her, clearly she made a positive and lasting impression. Lidia always enjoyed meeting the student recipients of the Lidia M. Vallarino Scholarship as well as the James V. Quagliano Fellowship, and was delighted that the next generation of chemists were studying at VCU.”