“Villanova became her home, her family.” This quote by University President the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, ’75 CLAS, encapsulates the community that Nora C. Ramos-Rojas ’17 CPS created when she stepped foot on campus in the late 1990s. Ramos-Rojas passed away on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, from cancer. A memorial mass was held for her on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 10 a.m. at St. Thomas of Villanova Church.
Born in Columbia in 1948, Ramos-Rojas came to the United States in 1973, earned her Green Card in the 1970s and became a United States citizen. Shortly after joining the Villanova community in the late 90’s she enrolled in the College of Professional Studies. Working in the custodial department at Villanova University, Ramos-Rojas’ sparkling personality brightened Falvey Memorial Library. Staff and students became accustomed to Ramos’ cheerful optimism and determination. In the library building early (so she could take classes in the evening), Falvey staff would often have to remind Ramos-Rojas that she would have to leave (as the Library was closing).
That resilience never wavered, and Ramos-Rojas graduated from Villanova on May 19, 2017, with a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in General Studies after taking courses at Villanova for 19 years to complete her degree. She was awarded the inaugural Grit Award for her passion, persistence, and commitment to her education.
Recalling the Bible story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42), Father Donohue stated that Ramos-Rojas exhibited traits of both sisters. Like Mary, she was devoted to her faith; a parishioner at Saint Colman Parish in Ardmore and a frequent volunteer on numerous service trips with the Villanova University Center for Peace and Justice Education program. Like Martha, she was passionate about helping others. During her time at Villanova she volunteered as a translator for Villanova University School of Law’s Clinic for Asylum, Refugee, and Emigrant Services (FLAC), which provides representation to refugees who have fled their home country due to human rights abuses and are seeking religious or political asylum in the United States. After graduation, she taught Spanish to young children at a local nursery school. Never without a smile, Ramos-Rojas always offered her support and help to those who crossed her path.
As Susan Leighton, Director of Academic Programs, and Ramos-Rojas’ former classmate reminisced, “In true Augustinian fashion, Villanova transformed Nora, and Nora transformed Villanova.” Her memory of strength, generosity, and integrity will live on through her family, friends, and her Villanova community.
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