The recipient of the 2019 Carondelet Lifetime Achievement Award, Sharon Vilardo Maneri ’64, G’69, always has a warm smile and cheerful greeting for everyone. A native of Ticonderoga, New York, Sharon has been a tireless champion for Saint Rose over the more than half century since she graduated with her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both in elementary education. A three-time former president of the Schenectady Chapter of the Saint Rose Alumni Association, she now serves as chapter historian, organizes class reunions, and is currently helping plan the centennial celebration. That’s just some of the many activities she has going on, with her husband, Dr. Chuck Maneri, often at her side.
What are your thoughts on being chosen as the recipient of this award?
I am humbled and honored to have been selected to join the ranks of the illustrious ladies who have preceded me – Lucille Singleton ’44, J.D., the first Saint Rose lawyer, and professors at the College, such as Sister Theresa Wysolmerski and Sister Agnes Rose Burton, women who were in the forefront in their fields. I knew and still know so many of the recipients, having worked with them over the years. It is humbling to be part of this wonderful group of women, Golden Roses all!
Even after retiring from your teaching position at South Colonie School District in 1971, you stay so busy and productive. What is a typical day like for you?
I usually start my day with daily mass at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Schenectady. Then, I stop by the Parish Office to check in on any funerals or bereavement activities that I am dealing with. This involves working with a funeral family to select and coordinate music and readings, creating and printing the program, attending the wake, and coordinating the funeral with greeters and Eucharistic Ministers from the Bereavement Group. It takes three days to complete a funeral.
I volunteer once a month at the Ellis Hospital Sleep Clinic with four other Saint Rose alums from the Schenectady chapter. In addition, I continue as historian for the Schenectady chapter, which keeps me busy upgrading and organizing all the memorabilia from this chapter – which was started in 1930 and will be celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2020!
In between all of that, I keep track of our household bills, chores, and family and friends’ special events.
How has your Saint Rose experience helped you in your career and life?
The values instilled at me, first at home, and then at Saint Rose – care and service to others, community, faith, commitment, and responsibility – all have given me a pattern to follow in every undertaking. I loved teaching, and I love working with others and helping out where needed.
What are some of your fond memories of your time as a student at Saint Rose?
From my arrival at Saint Rose in September 1960, when I first met the members of my house, Fontbonne Hall, I have felt at HOME. The family that was started at that time continued to grow through the four years I was there.
The class structure gave me an opportunity to participate in plays, musicals, snowman-building contests, dances, Sodality, Glee Club, teaching music at LaSalle School for Boys, and shows at nursing homes. The Sisters in my houses during freshman and sophomore years, and then in Rose of Lima Hall the last two years, were very special. Those friendships continued after graduation.
Please share some memorable stories about your teaching career.
I taught third and fifth grades at the West Albany School in the South Colonie School District, where I had done my student teaching. I only taught six and a half years before starting our family. During those years, I loved everything about teaching – the students, the faculty that became another family (including many Saint Rose grads), the plays each class put on every year, accompanying the choir, filling in for the music teacher when needed.
Years later, I reconnected with a student (Suzanne Miller ’79) that I had first in third grade and again in fifth grade. I learned that she had received her teaching degree at Saint Rose because of me and was in administration in the Saranac Lake School District. We have a close relationship today, and she traveled down to Albany to see me receive the Carondelet Award.
What are some of your fond memories of Saint Rose as an alum?
As an alum and someone who stayed in the Albany area after graduation, I have been privileged to become very involved at the College, starting with my first reunion in 1965. Classmates from Syracuse and Oneida returned every year as we attended every reunion, the annual alumni board meeting, the luncheons, dinners, picnics on the lawn.
We brought our children to the Saturday afternoon events on the lawn, where they got to ride ponies, enjoy petting animals, watch clowns, and so forth.
I got involved with the Schenectady chapter, soon becoming a board member and officer. As president, I was a member of the national board and helped with the publicity for the College’s 50th anniversary in 1970. I returned to the board in the ’90s, first as chapter president, then as secretary and board member through 2001. My fondest memories are working on, and then chairing, the Golden Roses liturgy and luncheon/tea. It gave me an opportunity to meet grads from 50 years ago, who then became part of my Saint Rose family.
Please tell us about your husband, Chuck (Dr. Charles Maneri).
Chuck grew up in Greenpoint in Brooklyn with his parents and an older sister. His dad was an independent grocer, and they lived upstairs over the store in a building that also was home to his grandmother, and an aunt and uncle and their families.
He attended Brooklyn Technical High School, and then Brooklyn Polytechnic University, where he earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering. He went on to the University of Michigan, where he earned an M.S. in Nuclear Engineering.
In 1963, he took a job at the Knolls Atomic Power Lab (KAPL) in Niskayuna, where he entered their doctoral program, earning his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering in 1970.
We met in 1966 when I and three other Saint Rose grads moved into the flat upstairs from his. We were married in February 1968, and celebrated 51 years this past February.
Chuck worked at KAPL until his retirement in 2000 after 37 years. He loves gardening, landscaping, fishing (especially with the grandchildren), hiking, skiing, classical music, Broadway shows, puns, and family (which is No. 1). He volunteers at our church in the Gardening Ministry, the Food Bank, and the Giving Tree at Christmas. He is always there for anyone in need, young or old, and is most supportive of all I do. He is a gem!
What motivates you to keep giving back to your alma mater?
I love Saint Rose, and have, from day one. Almost 60 years later, that hasn’t changed. I want to see the College continue to thrive, and have used my time, talent, and treasure to help that happen. Chuck has supported and actually helped in all of my activities to support the College.
I love all the people I have met over these past 60 years – students, staff, faculty administrators, students – they all have the Saint Rose spirit that brings us all together. As long as I am able, I will continue to do whatever I can to see that Saint Rose continues for another 100 years and beyond.
A word from Suzanne Miller ’79, former student of Sharon Vilardo Maneri:
Suzanne Miller ’79, who worked as dean of students at AuSable Valley MHS in June 2009, and officially retired from education in February 2018, was a student in Maneri’s class at West Albany School in third and fifth grade.
“I would directly attribute my lifelong love of reading to Mrs. Maneri; one of my fondest memories of my time as one of her students is her daily reading aloud to us. It is a practice I carried forward into my own classrooms,” she says.
“Having Mrs. Maneri as my teacher, as well as several other West Albany School teachers, influenced my choice of Saint Rose when it came time to choose a college to attend. Her influence deeply affected me – from emulating her always-professional appearance to how I interacted with the students I have worked with as a classroom teacher and school administrator. As her student, I knew that each of us mattered to her, not just as students, but as human beings – something I have always attempted to demonstrate to the students in my charge.
“It is difficult for me to convey concisely the direct, lasting, and positive impact Mrs. Maneri has had on my life, both as an educator, and as a human being – it is something for which I am deeply grateful, enormously humbled, and all the richer for in my life.”