The five children of Palestinian immigrants Felix and Olga Aburdene established funds for endowment worth more than $100,000 at the University of Connecticut’s Waterbury campus for needy students. Aida, Bassam, Elias, Maurice, and Odeh dedicated one scholarship to their parents and one was dedicated to Philip V. Benevento, an influential retired English high school teacher at Crosby High School in Waterbury.
Felix Aburdene, a former deputy mayor of Bethlehem, immigrated in March of 1956 to America and worked in the Somers Brass factory. Eventually, Aburdene was able to bring his wife and children over from Bethlehem to begin their new lives in Waterbury.
The Aburdene children never forgot their father’s 13-hour nighttime shifts, as well as both parents stressing the importance of education.
“My parents had a vision,” Elias was quoted in a 2006 UConn press release. “They stressed that, for immigrants, education was the step up and a way to assimilate into our new society. They arrived here at square one and with empty pockets. It was made clear to us all that education is critical to success in America.”
All five of the Aburdene children are UConn alumni, and work as bankers, professors and teachers.
In addition to the $100,000 endowment, the Aburdene family has donated $50,000 to the Silas Bronson Library in Waterbury, the second-largest gift received.