With the unveiling of St. Robert’s Gate in May, Bellarmine University has a grand signature entrance for the first time in its 63-year history. Named for the university’s namesake, St. Robert Bellarmine, the arched 3 ½-story entryway bears the Bellarmine shield, is illuminated at night, and somehow looks like it’s always been there.
“It makes a great first impression, without a doubt. And first impressions are very important,” said Gincy Osborne Carosi ’70, who, along with her husband, Nick Carosi ’69, donated St. Robert Gate to the university that brought them together – him from Washington, D.C., and her from Atlanta.
They both certainly have a lasting impression of their first meeting, which they described in separate phone interviews.
It happened in the cafeteria. “I used to work for food service,” said Mr. Carosi, who majored in accounting and business. “I would do their books and make out the paychecks for the various employees.
“One day I’m going through the line at lunchtime and I see a pretty girl on tippytoes reaching for something. I said, ‘Ma’am, can I help you?’ She said, ‘I’m looking for a lemon for my iced tea.’ I turned to a food service attendant, who I knew by name, and said, ‘Can you get this lady a lemon?’
“As she tells the story, that day she asked for a lemon – and she got one.”
“And I tell everyone,” Mrs. Carosi added in her interview, “that I made lemonade.”
It was not love at first sight – “for her, anyway,” Mr. Carosi said. “Our first date was not very successful,” she agreed. “But then we went home for a holiday – Thanksgiving or Christmas – and when we came back, we became friends. It was an old-fashioned time, in spite of it being the ’60s. We became friends first, and then more.”
The couple married in July 1970 after Mrs. Carosi (who began her college career at Ursuline) graduated. They made their home in Virginia, where Mr. Carosi became the third generation of his family (his son is now the fourth) to work at Arban & Carosi, an architectural precast concrete firm. The company began nearly 100 years ago as a partnership between Mr. Carosi’s grandfather, a sculptor and plaster artisan from Italy, and a cast-stone craftsman who was also an Italian immigrant. Mr. Carosi is now president of the firm, whose work appears throughout the Washington, D.C., area in buildings such as the Library of Congress, the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Union Station and the Jefferson Memorial.
Through the years, the Carosis have come back to visit the campus quite often, Mrs. Carosi said, and Mr. Carosi is now a member of the Board of Trustees. As Dr. Joseph J. McGowan was driving him to the airport following one recent meeting, Mr. Carosi recalled, “He said, ‘I’d sure like to do something to this entrance.’ I said, ‘You know, it would be interesting if we could build an arch, precast – it would be nice.’ That started the ball rolling.”
Arban & Carosi contributed the fabrication of the arch, which was designed by H. Carleton Godsey of Godsey Associates Architects of Louisville. Tom Hanson Associates served as structural engineer.
“Hospitality is an exceptionally import-ant value for the Bellarmine University campus, culture, and community – hospitality in its deepest sense – as we regularly welcome new ideas, new perspectives, and new people to the university,” Dr. McGowan said in announcing the plans for St. Robert’s Gate. “A grand entrance arch is a compelling symbol of such hospitality.”
Later this month, the Carosis will drive through St. Robert Gate and onto the campus where they met and fell in love, where they will be honored by the Bellarmine University Alumni Association as the Alumni of the Year. They plan to bring along their three children and the eldest five of their 10 grandchildren, Mrs. Carosi said. “We are making a big deal of it,” she said. “We are so looking forward to it.”
She is also looking forward to seeing St. Robert’s Gate in person. Mr. Carosi saw it up close when he attended a Board of Trustees meeting in August. “I’m being a little self-serving, but I think it’s terrific,” he said. “It really does welcome you to the university.”
And it makes a wonderful first impression.
Carla Carlton | firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Tom Dekle