It all started when Sharon Wilcox ’74 cut the line in front of Joseph Yacura ’74 to get her SUNY Oswego freshman photo ID.
“She cut in front of me, and I let her in,” Joe said, laughing. “That’s how we met.”
It was the start of a relationship—and ultimately, a marriage—that has included three of their own children, plus an extended family of approximately 100 others who have received a college scholarship through their generosity.
“It’s had a multiplier effect,” Joe said. “We were fortunate to have received good educations, and sharing education has become a personal passion for Sharon and me. There are so many bright individuals who deserve a good education, it would be a shame to waste their talents.”
At SUNY Oswego, the Yacuras are the benefactors for the Sharon ’74 and Joseph Yacura ’74 & Family Endowed Scholarship for Software Engineering, which provides financial assistance to a first-year student entering the software engineering program; the Sharon ’74 and Joseph Yacura ’74 Endowed Scholarship for two first-year students entering the School of Business who have financial need; and the Sharon ’74 and Joseph Yacura ’74 Endowed Scholarship for the School of Communication, Media and the Arts for a first-year student with financial need entering a SCMA program.
In addition to the four annual Oswego scholarships, the Yacuras have established two Graduate School of Management scholarships at SUNY Binghamton—where Joe earned two of his three master’s degrees—as well as a scholarship for disabled veterans at Santa Rosa Junior College in California, where the couple now calls home.
Each of the SUNY Oswego scholarships includes specific home counties in New York for recipients: Broome, Chemung and Schuyler; or that the recipient be an attendee of the Renaissance Youth Center in the Bronx, N.Y.—a program for inner city youth. The ties to Southern Tier communities not only reflect the Yacuras’ upbringings, but also a region where economic hardship is prevalent for many families.
“Education is just so critical, and we were so fortunate,” Joe said.
He earned an undergraduate degree in music in the School of Communication, Media and the Arts; subsequent degrees include two masters’ in business administration, and finance and accounting from Binghamton; and a third master’s from Loyola University in quality management. He also graduated from the senior executive program at Stanford University. Sharon earned a degree in education from SUNY Oswego and a master’s degree in occupational therapy from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Joe, who worked in information technology and the financial services industry for decades, also donates his time to his Oswego alma mater. He is an Oswego College Foundation board member, having served as head of the Audit and Finance Committee. He credits his fellow board members for their highly active and dedicated roles at the college in helping to advance the reputation of SUNY Oswego.
Scholarships attract top-notch students who can then capitalize on the opportunity to reach their potential, Joe said.
“Hopefully, one day, all of the recipients can pay it forward to Oswego, too,” he said.
Joe’s latest project: the creation of Sonoma Coffee & Tea in California with his brother, John Yacura ’76.
—Eileen Moran Crandall