June 06, 2023

Susan Satriano Foundation recognizes the “silent sufferers”

Author: Molly Belmont
Source:  NYSUT Communications
Susan Satriano Foundation recognizes the “silent sufferers”
Caption: Roslyn TA retiree Joe Satriano meets with Joseph Yovino, one of three 2023 recipients of the Susan Satriano Memorial Scholarship.

Joe Satriano has thousands of heroes, and each year, as part of his work with the Susan Satriano Foundation, he meets new ones.

“I have met 3,000 students in the past 17 years of doing the foundation, and each one is my hero. These students must deal with the pain of watching a parent go through cancer. Sometimes their parents are in remission, sometimes they are presently battling it, and in the worst-case scenario, they have lost a parent to this disease,” said Satriano, a retired math teacher and member of the Roslyn Teachers Association.

Satriano launched the Susan Satriano Memorial Scholarship Foundation in honor of his late wife, Susan, also a math teacher and former UFT member. They met at Brooklyn College in — where else — a math class.

“She told me afterwards it was the only D she ever got in a math class, and it was because she was distracted by me,” he said. The two were soon married and took teaching jobs at nearby schools. “The best part about being married to a fellow math teacher is you get to multiply,” Satriano joked. They had two boys, Matt and Justin, who were born on the same day exactly five years apart. “So, you can see, we did a lot of calculating,” Satriano said.

In 2005, Satriano lost his wife to cancer. “I spent the first six months after her death under my covers, crying,” he said. “But then I decided to do something.” During Susan’s 13-year struggle with the illness, Satriano saw the toll it took on their children. He started the foundation to help the children of cancer patients, the people he calls the “silent sufferers.”

Satriano used his wife’s life insurance policy and donations to fund the awards. To keep the scholarship fund going, he has gotten entrepreneurial – and creative. In 2009, he wrote a book, In Sickness and in Health: A Memoir of Love and donated 100 percent of the sales to scholarships. He also hosts an annual “Walk of Lights” fundraiser in Oceanside and benefit concerts with a Beatles tribute band. All that work has paid off — in the 17 years since the foundation was founded, Satriano has been able to award more than $1 million in college scholarships, up to $1,000 each, to high school seniors.

Satriano is passionate about education, just like his fellow unionists. In fact, NYSUT members and local unions across the state have given back millions of dollars in scholarships each year to students. Educators raise money through dress-down days, pizza parties and other events, and each year, they help thousands of students get their degrees. At this year’s RA, 21 locals were recognized for raising more than $130,000 for college scholarships.

For Satriano’s scholarship program, he believes in meeting with each student personally. “I want to communicate that I’ve been through what they’re going through, and I care,” he said.

On a recent May morning, Satriano met with three scholarship recipients at Division Avenue High School in Levittown, including Joseph Yovino. Yovino is attending Elon University in North Carolina in the fall, where he will play baseball and study project management. During his first year in high school, his mother, Debbie Yovino, an administrative assistant at the high school, was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer.

That first Christmas after the diagnosis, when his mother didn’t have hair, and she started losing weight and feeling exhausted was when the diagnosis became real to him, he said. That spring, COVID-19 pushed everyone into shutdown. Yovino’s father works in the city, so Joseph was home with his mother most days, helping take care of her while keeping up with remote classes.

“I was around her 24/7, so I saw her on the good days and the bad days,” he said. It was a scary and emotional time, and when it got to be too much for him, he said he would retreat to the backyard to practice baseball.

With the support of her family, Debbie Yovino successfully finished treatment, and she could not be prouder of her son.

For his part, Yovino said watching his mother’s struggle made him feel powerless, but it also helped him isolate what he could do, and where he could make a difference.

Satriano said this is exactly why he established the foundation in his wife’s memory. “What’s most important to me is that they did not let cancer stop them, which is a choice that they could have made,” Satriano said. Instead, he explained, these students want to attend college, and many continue into ‘give back’ positions, like teaching and health care, specifically because they want to help people the way people in these professions helped them.

“It gives me hope and optimism for the future. What these kids are going to do is amazing.”

To learn more or donate to the Susan Satriano Memorial Scholarship Foundation, visit