Leaving a Legacy: A Father’s Wisdom

Published: Oct 3, 2011

If Jo Anne Sabas ’77 could give you a piece of advice, she’d pass along something her father, Captain Samuel Joseph Sabas, once said to her: “You can lose your job, you can lose your home, you can even lose your health, but when you earn a college degree it can never be taken away from you.”

Jo Anne knows just how true those words are. From an early age, her father encouraged her pursuit of knowledge, and later on inspired her to make a lasting mark with a planned gift to UMBC.

Sam Sabas grew up in grinding poverty in south Chicago doing back-breaking work to support his mother, younger brother, and sister. His hard work also paid for his sister’s catholic high school tuition. He continued to support his family until he married. He then supported successfully a wife and two daughters. It wasn’t until much later in life that he had his chance at higher education. At 63 he retired as a sea captain to become a full-time college student. He graduated with honors from a two-year college.

So when Sam told Jo Anne she needed an education, she believed him. In fact, it was at his urging that she decided to return to school. At UMBC she was a non-traditional student—a decision that would leave its mark on her for the rest of her life. Thanks in part to her education, Jo Anne was able to strike out on her own as a writer.

“I got a sterling education from UMBC. I just think that UMBC is such a fine university,” Jo Anne says. “I am proud to be a graduate.” Several years ago, she decided to establish the Jo Anne Sabas Scholarship Endowment, an endowment that will benefit non-traditional students who are majoring in English or who include English with another (double) major. The endowment was inspired by her father.

“My father gave me that chance to return to school,” she says. “The credit really belongs to him.” So she decided to give someone else that opportunity.

Jo Anne knows what it’s like to try to squeeze getting an education into an already hectic life. While at UMBC, Jo Anne worked full-time for the then Dean of Social Sciences. “Because I was non-traditional, I couldn’t get involved in activities. I took courses during lunch time. I took courses at other colleges and transferred the credits to UMBC,” she says. “When I got down to the last 18 credits, I was bone tired. I took a four-month leave of absence from my job with the Dean’s permission and finished,” she adds. She would like to give another non-traditional student the support needed to make it through the tough moments.

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