Prof. killed in tragic accident

By on February 13, 2008

Professor Donna Festa sustained fatal injuries in a five-car collision in Trumbull on Saturday morning, Feb. 2nd.

Festa, 42, was an adjunct professor of education at Quinnipiac, but her role in the community as a mentor was integral.

“She has mentored student teachers and provided help and guidance to our juniors and seniors,” said Professor Cynthia Dubea, Dean of the Division of Education at Quinnipiac University.

Festa was a first grade teacher at West Woods Elementary School in Hamden, which she attended as a child. At West Woods, where she taught for 21 years, she mentored many Quinnipiac student teachers in the education program during their field study work.

Barbara Nana, Principal at West Woods Elementary, is also a member of the Quinnipiac faculty.

“To have to sit with that little group of 1st graders and tell them that their teacher isn’t coming back is very very hard,” Professor Dubea said.

“Times like this show us what is different about Quinnipiac. We not only talk about valuing community on paper, but we actually live it through our behavior.”

This was Festa’s first semester teaching at the University. She taught a field study course in the elementary program.

“What struck me most about Donna was her nervous excitement about teaching college students,” Director of Elementary Education and Assistant Professor of Eduacation Dr. Kevin Basmadjian said.

“Having taught only 5 and 6 year olds, she wasn’t sure what to expect from college students. I assured her she would be great, and when the beginning of the semester rolled around, she could hardly contain her excitement and enthusiasm.”

Festa’s father, Frederic D’Ambrose, is a part-time faculty member at Quinnipiac. He supervises student teachers in the secondary education program.

“We lost a colleague, and another one of our colleagues lost a daughter,” Professor Dubea said. “It’s hard to lose someone who has been a part of your community, whether the person is a part of a department, division, or the University as a whole.”

Students who knew her in and out of the classroom saw her energy and love for teaching.

“Donna Festa captivated her students in a way I have never observed before,” said Christine Florio, junior education major.

“Her genuine love of children and the classroom are something that I will always remember, and I hope that someday I will be as amazing with my students as she was with hers, They looked at Mrs. Festa in admiration as she enlightened their lives and brightened up their days with her sweet, caring disposition,” Florio said.

Festa “wore a permanent smile,” Dr. Kevin Basmadjian said. She was a woman dedicated to her family. She coached and worked in the Trumbull softball league with her husband and daughter with hopes to not miss any of her daughter’s games.

Festa’s passion for teaching and mentoring was undeniable.

“As a student it was so clear that she was interested in what we wanted to get out of the course,” said junior phychology and education major Kim Johnston.

“She seemed very determined to make sure that we were able to get the most out of our field work…you could tell she really loved what she did.”

Festa’s caring and compassionate nature was evident to those who had the opportunity to meet her.

“She will be deeply missed and the wonderful memory of her will be carried on by friends, family, and students,” Florio said.

Memorial contributions can be made out to the Donna Festa Memorial Fund, P. O. Box 110461, Trumbull, CT 06611. To light a virtual candle, visit at


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