A little kindness goes a long way, and when you consider Rose Cali, a lot of kindness goes beyond measure.
Rose experienced the importance of kindness as a child when her family turned to The Salvation Army for assistance, and it’s a practice she has generously shared to help others ever since.
A proud alumna, she fell in love with her educational journey when she decided to finish her college undergraduate degree and chose Montclair State. “I discovered that my professors were scholars who were dedicated to their work and their students. I was hungry to learn, and I see that same hunger in today’s students.”
She concentrated on classes in the arts and majored in Cultural Anthropology. “These studies were a perfect blend for me, they expanded my world. I was on an extraordinary journey of discovery that included history, language, traditions and world cultures.”
The bonds of college are strong for Rose, who remains close friends with a core of her classmates. She stayed connected to the school, getting involved as a University Board of Trustee member in 1991, serving as co-chair for multiple fundraising campaigns and advisory boards over the years, and still is an active University and Foundation board member. She led the efforts to conceive, build and complete the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center on the campus, a personal promise she made to Yogi to commemorate him and his accomplishments. “Both Yogi and baseball’s relevance in America’s history was a guiding path to tell the stories it held. We used baseball as an educational tool that reflected America’s challenges and triumphs including history, physics, math, equality, integration and humanity.”
“I have a deep pride in our University.” Her loyalty and love for the University is now a legacy, as she and her late husband, John, endowed their gift for music student scholarships, which improved the growth and excellence of the music program. The family surprised John in naming it the John J. Cali School of Music. “I wanted that dedication to be a legacy for John who was a poor kid who played the saxophone on gigs at 14, and used it to earn his way through Indiana University. It is a recognition of his love of music. John loved attending the music performances and meeting the scholarship recipients and their families.”
John Cali was the founder of Cali Associates and loved expressing his talent in creating residential and commercial buildings; his company was the first real estate investment trust in New Jersey. His parents had immigrated to America in 1903 from Sicily to Colorado where his father worked in coal mines. In 1929, the eight siblings and their parents left and settled in Passaic, New Jersey. His lifelong love of music began as a child when he picked up the saxophone at age 10 and he was always eager to play, even weeks before he passed away in 2014.
“His work and creativity was expressed in building and architecture. But his love was music,” Rose reflects.
The Cali family’s generous support has helped hundreds of students through scholarships, enabling musicians and students to develop their talents and passions and go on to serve the community in many capacities, as performers, educators, scholars, music therapists and more. “Whether it’s their lifetime career or not, we wanted to help these students who will never lose that passion for music and the arts.”
Giving to scholarships rather than bricks and mortar was a priority for their philanthropy, having grown up in families that did not have much money and knowing how difficult it is to afford college. “We wanted to assure our students experienced the love of learning in a collegial environment where they had the freedom to take the opportunities to explore and enjoy their college years,” says Rose.
“Hardworking students from working-class families are part of Montclair State’s legacy. They want to get an education, and we want to be the institution that is there for them. It’s who we are here. I’m a very proud alumna, forever grateful for my Montclair State adventure.”