Gina Benoit ’89
Gina Benoit honored the memory of her late husband, John Heredia, by creating a scholarship in his name after his unexpected death at the age of 32. Benoit and Heredia were married in Willimantic while she was a student at Eastern living a few blocks from the university. While a student Benoit worked full-time and part-time jobs in order to fund her education. She also received scholarships to help her achieve her academic goals. Benoit’s path was made easier by those who came before her, and now she is giving back to help others as she was helped.
“I wanted to honor John’s memory. He was a bigger-than-life personality who needed something with a large impact. He died so young, he was just figuring out his passion in life – coaching and mentoring high school students. Remembering back to the dozens of his student-athletes who were at his memorial service, I realized that he would want to continue that positive impact on young people,” said Benoit.
Benoit’s experiences at Eastern positively impacted her in many ways. She noted that there are many opportunities to get involved with activities on and off campus. She firmly believes that current students need to enjoy what Eastern has to offer in addition to their studies, instead of spending all of their free time working to pay for their higher education.
“When I was at Eastern, I had the most amazing professors, from part-time, moonlighting criminal justice professionals to full-time faculty with a passion for teaching their students. Dimitrios Pachis, Ann-Marie Orza and Bob Wolfe not only lectured in front of a classroom, but also took the time with students outside of the classroom and knew who we were, unlike at some larger universities. I had received so much from Eastern that I thought setting up a scholarship in John’s name would be a lasting tribute to his memory and keep his name ‘up in lights.’”
Once Benoit decided on an ECSU Scholarship, she worked with the Office of Institutional Advancement to craft the requirements potential recipients needed to meet in order to qualify for the scholarship. John was of Native American heritage and students eligible for the scholarship must be interested in Native American studies and in need of financial aid. The John D. Heredia Memorial Scholarship was established in 1998 and has grown and helped countless students achieve their own academic goals. John’s father passed away earlier this year and the scholarship now honors his father as well.
“Honoring the memory of my late husband helped me to move through my grief and helped give his young life such a lasting and positive impact on others,” said Benoit.