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Local Quilts of Valor Foundation honors military service of veterans Frank Morsani, USF nursing students

A long-time friend of USF and 22 USF Health nursing students and their faculty program director, all veterans, received handmade quilts in honor of their military service this week.

Philanthropist and community leader Frank Morsani was among those presented with a quilt from the local chapter of the Quilts of Valor Foundation during an emotional recognition ceremony Nov. 6 at the USF Sam and Martha Gibbons Alumni Center.

Korean War veteran Frank Morsani is draped with a handcrafted quilt by Sharon Kalinowski of the Quilts of Valor Foundation.

Frank Morsani, a U.S Navy veteran who served in the Korean War, and his wife Carol, have been dedicated supporters of USF and numerous other academic, medical, cultural and artistic effort across the Tampa Bay area, state and country. The Morsanis are the namesake of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and the Morsani Center for Advanced Healthcare.

Each of 22 student members in the Veteran to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program (known as VCARE), set to graduate next month, was also awarded a Quilt of Valor. And, the USF Office of Veteran Success presented a handcrafted quilt to VCARE Program Director Alicia Rossiter, DNP, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserves Nurse Corps.

Members of the graduating cohort of the Veteran to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program (VCARE) with Victoria Rich, PhD (front row center), dean of the USF College of Nursing, and Alicia Rossiter, DNP (far right), program director of VCARE.

“The recognition of Frank Morsani’s service in the Korean War is well-deserved, and we are extremely grateful for his service and for his ongoing commitment – and that of his wife Carol – to our university and our community,” said USF System President Judy Genshaft. “I also want to thank our outstanding VCARE students, and congratulate you on your graduation in just a few short weeks. Your service to our country, and your continuing service to others, are truly inspiring.”

According to the Quilts of Valor Foundation, the nonprofit was founded in 2003 by Catherine Roberts whose son Nat was deployed in Iraq. Since its inception, more than 170,000 quilts have been awarded to veterans from the grassroots quilting organization.

The quilts are made by volunteers, follow specific quilt-making dimensions, and can take up to 60 hours to sew. The first Quilt of Valor was awarded in November 2003 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to a young soldier from Minnesota who had lost his leg in Iraq.

Rossiter, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserves Nurse Corps, is presented with a handmade quilt by Denise Appleman (right).

The handmade quilts awarded this week were sewn by the Tampa-based quilting club CT Quilters, which is the local chapter of the Quilts of Valor Foundation. Member Sharon Kalinowski said presenting veterans with a quilt is a way to thank them for their service while giving them something tangible and comforting to hold.

Each year the Office of Veteran Success coordinates with CT Quilters to recognize graduating USF veterans with a quilt. So far, about 60 quilts have been awarded to USF veterans. This was the first time the quilts have been given to an entire nursing graduating class.

“This is a huge honor, especially for individuals who spent their entire military career caring for others. To have the care be returned to them is just so meaningful and special for these students,” Dr. Rossiter said.

From left:  Larry Braue, EdD, director of the USF Office of Veteran Success; Jessica Panasewicz, a student in the Veteran to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program; and Frank Morsani.

Nursing student Tamara Maynard, who was a Navy Corpsman and served in Iraq, said she was honored to receive the handmade quilt and grateful for the recognition.

“It’s a physical representation of what veterans have done,” Maynard said. “Every time that I see it, it will remind me of this ceremony. It will remind me of my classmates and my cohort. We’ve been through a lot together. We’ve all had diverse, individual experiences in combat and deployments. This is a good reminder of what we’ve all been through.”

Each year the Office of Veteran Success coordinates with CT Quilters, the local chapter of the Quilts of Valor Foundation, to recognize the military service of USF veterans with a quilt hand-sewn by volunteers. 

-Story by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing, and Anne DeLotto Baier, USF Health Communications
-Photos by Freddie Coleman, USF Health Communications