Ralph DeStefano ’65 grew up in a tough Philly neighborhood. After high school, he served in the Army and then joined the Philadelphia Police Force, later working the 4 p.m.-to-midnight shift so he could be a day student at Temple.
“He took classes in the daytime because he wanted the traditional college experience,” says his wife, Johanna.
Throughout his life, Ralph was grateful for the outstanding education he received at Temple's College of Liberal Arts.
“Ralph could relate well to his professors because he was older and intellectually interested in what they were teaching,” Johanna says. “He loved his classes. And he particularly loved Chaucer.”
Ralph's life in academia contrasted sharply with his life on the streets, particularly during the Philadelphia Race Riots in North Philadelphia in 1964. He worked 12-hours-on, 12-hours-off shifts during what was a harbinger of riots elsewhere in the nation.
Not long afterward, Ralph met Johanna, an elementary school teacher. He persuaded her to pursue a Ph.D. at Stanford University in California. She went, he followed, just after they married in August of 1967.
They arrived in Columbus, Ohio, in 1970 where they both pursued distinguished professional careers. An entrepreneur in broadcast and electronic media, Ralph built station WYNO in Athens County from the ground up, his first media “foray.”
For her part, Johanna claims impressive accomplishments at the Ohio State University College of Education. Now retired, she divides her time between “town and gown,” keeping active at OSU while serving on the boards of Columbus's symphony and opera.
Ralph passed away in 1996. In his honor, Johanna established a trust to support freedom of speech at Temple's School of Media and Communication. “Given the time Ralph spent on the police force and the amount of time he spent reading about First Amendment ‘erosion,’ this was the way to support a cornerstone of democracy,” Johanna says.
The trust pays Johanna a guaranteed monthly income for life. Upon her death, the principal will support Temple.
“Temple started as a school that offered a working class education for young men and women. It's still their route to a wider world,” Johanna says. “And with help from alumni and friends, Temple has the platform, professional schools and core curriculum in the liberal arts to be a truly great institution.”