Written by Richard Luppino


Brisk winds swept across the campus of Wesleyan University.  Trees stripped of their summer mantle moaned with each blast, urging me to quicken my pace.  I quickly entered the meeting room.  Others were present, some I did not know but with whom I would soon develop a close working relationship.   One person I did know well was Jerry Cunningham, Director of Financial Aid at Wesleyan.  His appearance was animated as he spoke to some other colleagues – his personality was magnetic.  He was dynamic and committed.  Being a neophyte myself, I sought out his advise on various problems, weekly it seemed.  He always had time for me and was always patient, no matter how silly my questions seemed.


Jerry caught my presence, reached over and grabbed my arm, smiling, introducing me to the group, hardly missing a beat in conversation.  I was made to feel immediately welcomed.  But that was Jerry’s style.  People seemed to gravitate to him – his advice was sought, it seemed, by everyone.  As carefully orchestrated as any good college professor delivering lecture, he explained the possible consequences of some piece of legislation.  We were obtaining tons of information and also the philosophy that if regulations were harmful to students or overly bureaucratic, you fought like hell to make the changes.  A philosophy that many of us still live by.   Jerry was our mentor, our teacher, affecting us in a very positive way.


The meeting started with introductions by all, John Rapp – University of Connecticut, Marcia Pond Gardiner – Connecticut College, Elaine Bodnar – University of Bridgeport, Robert Granato – Thames Valley Technical School, Justin Pagano – Mattatuck Community College, David Dubisson – University of New Haven, Martin Curry – Southern Connecticut State College, and Richard Luppino – Middlesex Community College.  Jerry then outlined the need to form a state association in Connecticut that would address several emergency situations, on both the Federal and State levels, that needed a collective voice for student financial aid to urge passage of specific legislation of great interest to all of us.  He felt that Senators and Congressmen were much more positive when the petitioner was a spokesman for a group.  It was an exciting, electrifying idea, why didn’t anyone think of this before?  Naturally, we were all for establishing such a group.  But what would we call ourselves?   Obviously it came down to the Connecticut Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, C.A.S.F.A.A.  We mapped out the details over wine and cheese, such as who wanted to be involved with what.  First, Legislative, you guessed it, Jerry Cunningham and Justin Pagano,  Professional Standards – Dave Dubisson, John Rapp, and Elaine Bodnar, Public Relations – Robert Grantano, School and College Relations – Richard Luppino.  We left that day excited, electrified, we were going to make a significant contribution in shaping the direction financial aid would take in future years.


In the days and weeks that followed, a flurry of activity resulted in planning a first meeting for spring.  Other colleges were solicited to join the organization, and on April 9, 1970, CASFAA held its first meeting at Southern Connecticut State College.  From the very beginning, CASFAA’s aim was to:


  • Be involved politically – to let the leadership, both Federal and State, know what our positions were on proposed legislation, as well as current policies. To initiate committees with other agencies, to effect changes that would benefit students in general.
  • To communicate with members about the latest developments in aid and to encourage more schools to participate and become involved in the process.
  • Community service participation which would spread the word about financial aid and how it works.
  • Public relations and a clear financial aid image of the organization that would speak for itself.  We have, from inception, been very involved with activities, speaker bureaus, high school nights, and hot lines, all promoting the professional image of our organization and its members.


It’s interesting to note what some Past-Presidents felt were important events of their tenure:


  • Jerry Cunningham (1970-1974: CASFAA was the prime mover to have CSLF shift over to a single page form.
  • John Rapp (1974-1976): CASFAA members refused to process any 3 page CSLF forms which led to a revised 1 page form
  • Henry Miller (1977-1980): Increased exposure and information to public through a concentrated public relations effort.
  • David Welsh (1987-1988): Published a Financial Aid Directory which was a full face format professionally done. Comprehensive training workshops, six in all, on several important legislative changes as a result of the reauthorization.


Policy advocacy, training of both the public and professionals, public relations and community services are things that span the years, carried out diligently by each of the Presidents who never lost sight of the primary mission of the organization so carefully laid down by the founders.  Much work has been done by CAPFAA members, the giving of their time unselfishly to the cause.