Live music, writing and celebration: Quinnipiac students win the Massaro Prizes

Krystal Miller, Associate News Editor

Students and faculty gathered in the Buckman Theater on Oct. 27 to celebrate late Quinnipiac University student and aspiring writer Tony Michael Massaro.

Massaro was a sophomore philosophy major at Quinnipiac when he died in an off-campus biking incident in 2018. His mother Linda Massaro said he had been writing his entire life and had won awards for his writing.

“I thought that it was just a natural way to honor Tony and to create a legacy of his memory and his passion by creating number one a scholarship for philosophy majors, and then starting a student contest, which will help students and preserve the importance and beauty of writing,” Linda Massaro said.

The Anthony Massaro Endowed Scholarship Fund was given to Quinnipiac student Brian Daly this year. The Massaro Prize series is a satirical writing competition that has 10 total winners. The event included live music and free pizza, and students gathered in the theater to listen to the winners announced and read out their submissions.

The Massaro Prizes were $1,000 in total, including one $200 gifted wit prize, two $150 grand wit prizes, three $100 great wit prizes and four $50 very-very good wit prizes. Associate professor of English Timothy Dansdill said the prizes were according to which submissions were the most witty, playful and satirical.

“From my son, Tony, in a world of words, he used his pen very skillfully to make his voice heard,” Linda Massaro said. “And I thought that was really something that stayed with me, and I wanted to continue his passion of writing.”

To enter the competition, students had to email Dansdill their submissions by Oct. 20. Submissions were completely original and on any topic. It was open to undergraduates in any major.

Linda Massaro contacted Dansdill because she remembered he was one of the professors her son had mentioned to her. Dansdill said Tony was in his creative writing course and another rhetoric course. Dansdill met with the Massaros and discussed establishing the Anthony Massaro Endowed Scholarship Fund and writing prize series in 2019, but its implementation was delayed because of COVID-19.

“I’m exceptionally grateful to Professor Timothy Dansdill,” Linda Massaro said. “Tony was a student of his, and he never forgot, and he never gave up and three and a half years later despite all the delays and the COVID interruption, this event finally took place.”

Dansdill said Quinnipiac has been less focused on liberal arts in recent years, and he wanted to bring that back to the school with events such as the Massaro Prize series.

“I have not seen any event like this happening for years on this campus, this is one of a kind,” Dansdill said. “That didn’t used to be that way.”

Dansdill decided to include live music at the event because he started a band called the Rhythm Doctors 15 years ago. It is an active faculty band and has performed at Christmas and back to school parties. Since he said similar events have not been as popular among students, Dansdill was not expecting a large audience. He said he was delighted to see students read their work.

“I was completely blown away by the turnout given that given that history,” Dansdill said. “We had 60 people in there, which is pretty amazing.”

Dansdill hopes for the future of the event to be even bigger and better.

Michael Yohe, a sophomore health science studies major in the PT program, decided to attend the event just to enjoy it after writing a submission for the contest.

“I just felt like expressing myself a little bit more than just having it there in my camera roll,” Yohe said.

Emma Grady, a first-year biology major, was one of the winners of the very-very good wit prizes.

“Recently, while being here, I realized that I enjoy writing and like journaling,” Grady said. “So I thought it was like a good opportunity to test out the waters.”

Grady said she was in shock when she was named a winner for the contest, she was not expecting to be the winner especially when all grade levels were competing.

“I’m very grateful, that’s for sure,” Grady said.

Rooster Smith, a sophomore biomedical science major, was another winner of the very-very good wit prizes.

“I wasn’t expecting it, honestly,” Smith said. “But I’m just glad I could make people laugh, that was fun, that was my main goal.”

When finding out about the event, he was interested in listening to live music. He hopes Quinnipiac continues doing events such as this one in the future.

“Honestly, I was sitting here at my desk and I got the email and I just thought it’d be cool,” Smith said.

Jakob Potemri, a junior 3+1 film, television and media arts and English double major, won the very-very good wit prizes as well.

“Especially since after COVID, it is really nice to go to an in-person event,” Potemri said.

Potemri decided to attend the event because a few of his English major friends submitted entries as well, it was a chance for them to get together and write, but also attend an event. He said he has gone to other events on campus such as open mics and writing events, but he did not expect to see a band playing songs like Werewolves of London.

“I love how active everyone seems to be here, they have all the instruments set up and it’s a real commitment,” Potemri said.

He said it was nice to get his work recognized and win a prize, but it was cool to see a tribute done for one particular student, rather than a group of people.

“I think it was definitely a nice tribute to a former Quinnipiac student who was a creative writer and the fact that they’re continuing on his legacy is special in a way because, in a lot of cases, we don’t exactly see that for individual students,” Potemri said.