MORGANTOWN -- The Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University has received a gift from Diana Biafora Sparagna, to establish an endowed fund named for her father: The Joseph R. Biafora Endowed Scholarship.

The endowment, which is administered by the WVU Foundation Inc., will support at least one scholarship each year for an arts and sciences student who has special needs or circumstances that might affect the ability to stay in college or return to college.

The scholarship is intended for juniors or seniors, although sophomores are eligible. When possible, preference will be given to students from the West Virginia counties of Harrison, Marion or Monongalia.

Scholarships will be awarded in the name of Joseph R. Biafora, a 1942 graduate of the Department of Political Science in WVU's Eberly College.

Biafora was the first member of his family to attend WVU. He served with distinction as a First Lieutenant in the 135th Infantry of the 34th Division of the U.S. Army during World War II, and was severely wounded with multiple injuries during that service.

He completed one year of law school at WVU before being commissioned by the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) and immediately placed on active duty on May 16, 1942.

He completed law school at the University of Southern California after the war, because WVU's law school was closed at that time.

Biafora, a native of Harrison County, practiced law in California from 1947 to 1994. He was president of the Lions' Club and the San Fernando Valley Bar Association, active in the Reseda Chamber of Commerce, CEO of Valley Federal Savings and Loan, and served on several committees of the California Bar.

He was also a real estate developer, and one of the first to participate in the programs of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the 1970s. His projects included apartment houses, homes and shopping centers.

Biafora and his wife, the former Stefi Poluck, a native of Marion County, have six children, all of whom are college graduates. Their grandson, Francis Sparagna, is a graduate of WVU's Eberly College. They reside in the San Fernando Valley of California.

Sparagna, the mother of WVU graduate Francis Sparagna, established this scholarship to honor her father and the example of her father's life. She is the California state chair of the WVU Parents Club.

This is not the first gift from the Biafora family in support of WVU students. Diana Sparagna and her father, Joseph Biafora, endowed The Stefi Poluck Biafora Scholarship at WVU, in honor of her mother and his wife, in 2005. That endowment supports at least one scholarship each year for a rising junior or senior who is majoring in an arts and sciences program.

Joseph and Stefi Biafora created an endowment with the WVU Foundation in 2003 in memory of Biafora's parents. The Frank and Bernardina Biafora Scholarship supports at least one Dean's Leadership Scholarship each year, granted to a rising freshman or sophomore enrolled in the Eberly College, with preference for political science majors.

The WVU Foundation Inc. is a private, non-profit organization which develops, receives, and administers private gifts from individuals and organizations for the benefit of West Virginia University.

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