'Gifts for Ginny' Reap Rewards for Occupational Therapy Program

For the past 20 years, family, friends, faculty and devotees of Xavier’s Occupational Therapy program have made contributions to the Virginia Scardina Interdisciplinary Education fund, named after a beloved practitioner they simply called “Ginny,” who lived and worked in Cincinnati. 

Instead of getting each other gifts for holidays or special occasions, faculty members traditionally “give to Ginny.” And so do many others. The reason? To help establish a sustainable scholarship fund for Xavier’s occupational therapy students in her honor.

This year, their efforts finally paid off. The Virginia Scardina Interdisciplinary Education Award, formerly just an honor, is now the Mildred Virginia Scardina Occupational Therapy Scholarship. Its first gift of $1,000 was awarded to Jillian Smith this past spring.

“I can only hope that I have a fraction of the impact Ginny had on clients, colleagues and the profession,” says Smith, a senior this year. “I will carry the meaning of this award with me throughout my career and use it as a compass to guide my practice.”

 I can only hope that I have a fraction of the impact Ginny had on clients, colleagues and the profession. I will carry the meaning of this award with me throughout my career and use it as a compass to guide my practice.

Until now, Xavier faculty, the Scardina family and the Cincinnati Occupational Therapy Institute gave the award to an outstanding occupational therapy student in his or her final year of school. The scholarship criteria were developed from the hallmarks of Scardina—an outspoken leader and a strong voice for the occupational therapy profession.

The award was originally set up by the Institute in 1995 as a tribute to Scardina, their co-founder. But unlike many other funds that are established at higher levels, this fund started with a $1,000 contribution. However, it’s grown steadily through many contributions, including gifts from Scardina herself. When she died in 2007, she designated her memorials to this fund, as did her husband.

In December, the fund reached its goal with a gift from Scardina’s son, Michael. “There were many heartfelt gifts leading the way to Michael’s final contribution, in honor of Ginny and her husband, which makes it really special,” says Carol Scheerer, chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy.

Scardina was a well-known researcher, educator, mentor and advocate. Her name is recognized nationally and internationally, most notably for her work with A. Jean Ayres on sensory integration: the understanding of how the brain and behavior patterns work together, especially in children.

In addition to her many other contributions to occupational therapy, Scardina helped start Xavier’s program, and the department became the home for Scardina’s award. But despite the scholarship becoming a reality, Scardina supporters won’t stop “giving to Ginny.”

“OT was in Mom’s heart and soul,” says Michael Scardina. “She cared deeply about it and touched people through her work. Her scholarship keeps her dreams alive.”