The campus community is reflecting on the passing of Leslie Schettino, director of the Office of Student Disability Services at Ithaca College.
Schettino died last Thursday at her home from a life-threatening illness she had dealt with for four years. She was 56 years old.
Robin Dubovi, a student disability specialist for SDS, said though she only knew Schettino when she was ill, she noticed an overwhelming strength in her and the passion Schettino had for life and for her students.
“She was in treatment and discomfort for four years,” Dubovi said. “It was not an easy road at all. But she tried to come to work, even when it was obvious it was hard. It’s what kept her going, in addition to her family. It was amazing how much she fought and how much she loved students.”
Humor also played a large role in Schettino’s life. Linda Uhll, acting director of SDS and a close friend of Schettino, said she was always the “office comedian” whose laughter and light would draw people in and make students feel welcome.
“That sense of humor was what everyone knew about her,” she said. “I just always thought, ‘Wow, this is someone I love working with.’”
Schettino came to the college in 1994 and was instrumental in developing the college’s Student Disability Services. Uhll, who began working with Schettino in 2000, said she essentially built the operation from the ground up without much financial assistance.
“I know that it grew tremendously from ’94 to 2000, and that the program had continued to grow tremendously through her sheer force of will,” she said. “I know that when they started, there was no budget.”
Since 2000, Uhll said, the number of students coming to the
office doubled because of Schettino’s dedication to the program.
When Schettino wasn’t working, she was exercising another passion — her love for New York sports teams, especially the Yankees. Dan Williams, adaptive technology specialist for SDS, said
being an avid Red Sox fan, they were often engaged in heated debates about Major League Baseball.
Though they may have clashed during baseball season, Williams said he first saw Schettino’s determination to provide everyone with equal opportunities when he met her two years ago looking for a job with SDS as a person with disabilities himself.
“Being a person with disabilities, she never used it as an excuse for me,” he said. “As a matter of fact, she made me try to be better.”
Cathy Howe, administrative assistant for SDS, said one of her fondest memories of Schettino was while they spent time together during Schettino’s last hospital stay.
“I think the biggest gift was the last time I saw her,” she said. “We had a rip-roarin’ time. It’s a wonder we didn’t get kicked out of the hospital. It was just phenomenal. Her wit and her humor and her laugh were just there.”