John and Nancy Pesiri

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In 1949, medical student Ergi John Pesiri offered nursing student Nancy Long a ride home from a Marquette mixer, promising to get her back before curfew. He did that and more, becoming her hero and later her husband. The romance that began that night was celebrated in 2003 with a toast that left Nancy Pesiri momentarily speechless. “I was astonished,” she admits, “just astonished.”

For Dr. Pesiri, who calls his wife “the more loquacious” of the two, that meant he had accomplished his secret mission. After months of clandestine calls to Marquette — made anonymously from pay phones so there was no opportunity for the university to identify him with caller ID — the doctor had chosen the perfect gift to commemorate the couple’s 50 years together.

Pesiri announced at the couple's golden anniversary celebration that he had endowed a full-tuition scholarship in Nancy’s name to be awarded annually to a nursing student.

Nancy understood the significance of his gift. He had brought them full circle, back to Marquette where it began. Now, another nursing student will get the same Marquette start.

The Pesiris have stayed connected to Marquette. Although they moved back east after graduating in 1951 — Pesiri was in the service, first stationed in the Pacific, then in Washington, D.C., and Nancy was working at Memorial Sloan Kettering Medical Center in New York City — they came back to get married at Church of the Gesu in 1953.

They haven’t missed a class reunion since leaving Marquette. Both feel the endowed scholarship pays a debt owed to their university.

“Marquette gave me early admission to medical school. It gave us our education. My wife has devoted years to philanthropic work. What could be a more appropriate tribute to her than a scholarship?” Pesiri asks and smiles.



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