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Raphael Della Ratta, C’92, Funds the Climb the Mount Initiative

Donna Klinger

Raphael Della Ratta with Fellowship students

Raphael Della Ratta, C'92, with Fellowship students at an end-of-year celebration (photo by Jacob Chielli)

Mount St. Mary’s University President Timothy E. Trainor. Ph.D., today announced that Raphael Della Ratta, C’92, has made a major gift to fund the Climb the Mount initiative in support of the university’s mission. Della Ratta is a member of the Mount’s Board of Trustees and a long-time supporter of the liberal arts at the university.

me-crop.jpg“The Climb the Mount initiative recognizes that three intersecting areas of the undergraduate experience at the Mount accelerate students on the path to leading lives of significance in service to God and others,” said Trainor. “The Mount community is deeply appreciative of Raphael Della Ratta’s generous gift that will provide support for students in the ascent along their educational journey at the university.”

Under the Climb the Mount initiative, students are led through a self-discovery process as part of the integrated core curriculum. Next, students are introduced to avenues to leave campus to interact with the world beyond Emmitsburg. Finally, the university assists students in securing external academic opportunities that will launch them to purpose-driven lives and successful careers.

“Raphael Della Ratta’s transformational gift is meant to achieve three strategic initiatives: strengthen our core curriculum through an investment in the First-Year Symposium, increased support to our marvelous Study Abroad programming, and assisting the Office of Competitive Fellowships in providing aid to our ambitious students to secure world-class fellowships, grants, and internships,” said Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Bryan Zygmont, Ph.D. “Together, these three programs impact each student we teach at the Mount.”

“My intent is for the Climb the Mount initiative’s impact to be both immediate and enduring,” Della Ratta said. “It will transform the lives of students both during their time at the Mount and long after they leave campus.”

The Know Yourself segment of the initiative focuses on ensuring that the instruction of First-Year Symposium classes is provided by full-time professors who are equipped to impact students’ minds, hearts and lives from within the classroom. The Mount is recruiting current faculty members with a proven record of excellence in instruction to also teach this foundational course. In addition, the university is hiring two early-career faculty members who will focus on teaching sections of First-Year Symposium and other core curriculum courses that align with their areas of academic interest. The First-Year Symposium program is led by Edward Egan, J.D., who also directs the Pre-Law Program.

Della Ratta, president of Commercial Management Company, graduated from the Mount in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in philosophy. He recalls the two-semester freshman seminar course as a great introduction to “what was expected of new students in the classroom of a liberal arts college.” Thirty years later, he still remembers the pedagogical experience and vocations and meaningful work units as providing great insights. “The ‘working’ unit urged students to consider what makes for a meaningful career after graduation,” he said.

emma_lookout-in-text.jpgThe other two components of the Climb the Mount initiative, titled Know Your World and Change Our World, are not all-encompassing like the core curriculum improvements, but their impact on those who participate is limitless. Know Your World seeks to enhance the Mount’s study abroad program by further diversifying the locations of the university’s international offerings, making such programs more affordable and increasing administrative support for the program. These efforts would allow more students to participate and holistically realize their place in the world. The Mount’s study abroad program is directed by Chair of the Department of Political Science Amanda Krause, Ph.D.

While Della Ratta did not study abroad during his four years at the Mount, he traveled internationally before college. “I’m fortunate that I had done some international travel before college,” he shared. “Given that I have a lot of family in Italy, I was able at an early age to appreciate the value of extended periods in a foreign country.”

The Change Our World section of the Climb the Mount initiative provides resources for the Office of Competitive Fellowships to support students in pursuing prestigious external fellowships, internships and grants. These highly competitive awards launch students to successful careers and lives. Since its establishment in 2015, the Office of Competitive Fellowships has helped students win seven Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships, eight Fulbright English Teaching Assistant awards, three Fulbright Study/Research awards, two Fulbright US-UK Summer Institute grants and more, including a Department of Defense SMART Scholarship, a Boren Scholarship and semi-finalist accolades for the Marshall Scholarship to Cambridge University. The program, directed by Associate Professor of History Jamie Gianoutsos, Ph.D., from its inception through the 2022-23 academic year, is now led by Professor of World Languages and Cultures Christine Blackshaw, Ph.D.

After attending the end-of-year reception for the Fellowships program, Della Ratta observed: “The awardees have such an obvious passion for their fields of study and their enthusiasm for their next adventure is great to see. I imagine some students come to the end of their MSM career and really wonder, "What’s next?" Not so for these students. Graduation for them is the starting point for a fellowship that they have worked years to develop and achieve.” 

Read more about Raphael Della Ratta:

Raphael Della Ratta Donates Capstone Gift to Forward! Campaign

Lives of Significance: Raphael Della Ratta, C’92


Donna Klinger