Louise Lostocco '45
In the 1940s, it wasn’t common for women to go to college, but thanks to an anonymous donor, Louise Petersen Lostocco '45 was able to attend Hillyer College—one of three schools that joined together in 1957 to form the University of Hartford. Not only was Louise able to make amazing memories during her time at Hillyer, but she created a legacy and passed her love of UHart on to her children and grandchildren.
I was very thankful that I could go to Hillyer, and thought I was so rich to be able to get a good education. It meant a great deal to me and I am very thankful to achieve what I did. -Louise Lostocco '45
Louise graduated from Hillyer College in 1945 in the midst of international turmoil—graduating with just 33 others because 74 classmates had left to serve in World War II. Despite external factors, Louise worked hard to get her college degree. She had been told by her father that she didn’t need to go to college, that it wasn’t worth it—but she wanted that degree and believed in her capabilities. "It was a privilege to be able to go to college, and I thought it would make me a better person," Louise recalls.
To support her education, Louise worked multiple jobs. “All of us who attended Hillyer during those early years realized how important an education was, and we all worked several jobs to make it possible, going to school days, nights, or to a class now and then,” Louise remarked during a speech after receiving UHart’s Distinguished Service Award in 1999.
Louise cherished the education she received at Hillyer College. “I was very thankful that I could go to Hillyer, and thought I was so rich to be able to get a good education. It meant a great deal to me and I am very thankful to achieve what I did,” Louise says.
Her college experience played a big part in her life, and she is proud to have passed on the legacy to her son and grandchildren. “After growing up during the Depression, my mother never forgot how little she had compared to the wealth of knowledge she received at Hillyer,” says Louise’s son, William “Bill” Lostocco '89. “She felt that material items can easily be lost or taken away, but what we learn through an education will be ours forever. These values instilled the importance of higher education in me and my family as well.” Bill also has fond memories of his time at the University and the opportunities it has provided his family. Through the University, Bill was able to gain employment in the Clinical Engineering Department at St. Francis Hospital, the beginning of a 30-year career servicing x-ray systems throughout Connecticut. Additionally, both of Bill’s sons studied music at the Hartt Community Division. “My family and I are richer for the experience provided at the University of Hartford,” Bill says.
Although Lisa Musco, Louise’s daughter, isn’t an alum, she is still well connected to the University. Her son, Alex Musco '15, and daughter-in-law, Amy Cascardo Musco '15, are alumni and she has attended many University events. Even to Lisa, UHart is a special place. “It feels like home, it feels comfortable,” Lisa says. “We grew up with the University; sending my two kids there for summer camp, I always felt so sure that they would be safe—that the University students and staff were going to take great care of them.”
We still talk about alumni events that my grandparents would attend because it was a time where my grandmother could be with all her grandchildren at a place that meant so much to her. -Alex Musco '15
Being able to see her grandchildren graduate from her alma mater and receive legacy medals was special for Louise. The shared experience of being UHart alumni has created memories for the whole family to cherish. “We still talk about alumni events that my grandparents would attend because it was a time where my grandmother could be with all her grandchildren at a place that meant so much to her… so maybe it was meant to be that I would end up at UHart and be able to call myself a proud alumnus,” says Alex, Louise’s grandson.
The adversity Louise overcame to attend and get a degree has inspired her grandchildren. Sita Nadathur '16 D'19, Louise’s granddaughter, explains, “My grandmother broke many social norms in her youth, including going to college and delaying marriage to pursue academic and career goals. Although this may seem normal now, it was not the standard practice in the 40s. As a lifelong learner, she was always reading and instilling the importance of education on her children and grandchildren. She was very proud of her time at the University of Hartford and was so grateful at the opportunity to pursue higher education.”
Like Sita, Alex has also been positively influenced by his grandmother and her journey. “She is the toughest woman I have ever met,” he adds. “Nothing physically or mentally can stop her from achieving whatever goal she puts her mind to. She taught me that you can accomplish anything in this world, and I take that approach with everything that I do—from college to marriage to the military. She inspires me each and every day to keep pushing myself past my comfort zone.”
Louise Lostocco’s legacy has transcended generations. She did what very few people, especially women, were able to do at the time and graduated from college during an era of uncertainty. While she agrees that not many women were able to attend college in the 1940s, she also notes that “there were some smart, gifted women back then who did.” Louise’s tenacity and drive has left a mark not only on her family but on UHart, showing current students what is possible when you believe in yourself.
Louise passed away in 2022. Her family continues to carry on her UHart legacy and as a University, we will keep telling her story.
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