Clolita Vitale ’75, theatre, is truly a Retriever Believer. When she first walked onto UMBC’s campus in the late 1960s, she was struck by how new the university was. She even recalls walking around on plywood planks as construction was underway. But where some might have preferred an older, established school, Vitale found UMBC’s newness exciting–a promise of things to come.
Since then, Vitale has been involved with UMBC in just about every way possible. As a student, she decided to study theatre and dance. Though she would later pursue a career in law, she says her time in the performing arts program at UMBC was critically important to her. The tight-knit community and creative ingenuity of faculty and fellow students inspired and supported her, and it’s something she’ll always remember. “They helped me find my sense of self,” she says.
Later on, when she joined the staff at UMBC, she felt that Dr. Freeman Hrabowski and the other campus leaders were supportive. They encouraged her to get involved on campus and grow professionally. Eventually, she became an Assistant Vice President and University Counsel. “They allowed me to evolve,” Vitale says. “It didn’t seem like I was in the same place standing still for 30 years.”
Even after moving on to other career opportunities, Vitale has stayed deeply connected to the campus community. She’s taken UMBC students under her wing, helping them get their start in life. And she’s supported the university with gifts to the arts (including naming two seats in the new PAHB theatre) and now with the decision to make a planned gift to the university.
That pioneering spirit that is so prevalent in UMBC’s earliest faculty and alumni is clearly present in Vitale. She invested in the place that invested in her, and she’s been proud to watch UMBC grow into a nationally recognized research university. “I feel like someone who went from the horse and buggy to the space age,” she says.
Vitale says she felt it important to give early on, even when she could only make smaller donations. “I knew that even if I only had $100, it was important to contribute,” she says. “I knew it would go to something really needed.”
There’s no doubt that Vitale’s passion for UMBC is real–her voice is full of emotion as she reflects on everything she’s experienced at the university. And now, more than 40 years after she first came to campus, Vitale continues to support UMBC. In fact, as she looked forward to retirement, she knew there was no question that she would include UMBC in her will. “You can’t take a place you’ve been associated with for so long and just forget about it,” she explains. She sees her planned gift as an opportunity to leave a legacy at the place that has so deeply impacted her life. “It means something to me,” she says. “I want to be a piece of that.”