The University of Maryland College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS) announced today the Mark Sobel Jr. Endowed Scholarship, which will support undergraduate students at the University of Maryland pursuing careers in medicine. Recipients will be selected based on academic merit and financial need.
Dr. Mark Sobel (B.S. ’82, zoology; M.D. ’87, Case Western Reserve University) and his wife Mary Grace endowed the scholarship to honor the memory of their son who died in 2011 of a heart infection at the age of 17.
An honor roll student at Middletown High School North in New Jersey, Mark Jr. was involved in the Kiwanis youth service organization’s Key Club, the Science League and class council. He also played football, was an avid body builder and enjoyed the beach.
“Mark Jr.’s dream was to one day become a doctor,” said the elder Sobel, an orthopedic surgeon who practices in New Jersey and New York City. “It is our wish that through this scholarship, others who aspire to the medical profession may come to realize their dream.”
In addition to honoring Mark Jr.’s memory, this scholarship also celebrates his gift of life to Frank Romano (B.S. ’75, general studies), a retired restaurant owner who lives in Connecticut. When Mark Jr. passed away, his parents donated his kidney to Romano.
Sobel, who played defensive end at Maryland, struck up a friendship with Romano, who played offensive guard and offensive tackle at Maryland, after the two met at a football hall of fame event in New York in 1993. They attended games together and hosted tailgating parties over the years, and Sobel knew of Romano’s kidney issues.
As Mark Jr.’s life neared its end, the Sobels had to decide whether to donate their son’s organs. Romano immediately came to mind, but he had to be located within hours for the kidney transplant to succeed and the Sobels didn’t know how to contact him.
Then, the Maryland football phone tree lit up. Finally, Romano’s teammate Paul Vellano (B.S. ’74, general studies)—and the father of Joe Vellano (B.S. ’11, family science), a former Terps defensive lineman now playing for the New England Patriots—connected the two families.
"It was a miracle that Frank was available, he was a match and he had kept himself in position where he could receive the kidney," Sobel said.
The University of Maryland roots run deep with the Romano, Vellano and Sobel families.
“Mark Jr. loved the University of Maryland,” said Sobel. “We have precious memories of him tailgating with us on Saturday afternoons. Mark Jr. would love to explore the campus and work out at the new weight room with his brother Jay on Saturday mornings before the football games.”
Jay currently attends the University of Maryland. His younger sister Grace, who will begin high school this fall, dreams of being a Terp one day, too.
Soon, the Sobel extended family will also include the Mark Sobel Jr. Endowed Scholarship recipients, who will use the scholarship to shape their future medical careers at the University of Maryland and beyond.
“The real-world impact of this scholarship will be both enormous and far reaching,” said CMNS Dean Jayanth Banavar. “I am extremely grateful to Mark and Mary Grace for their generous support of our exceptional science students.”
On July 7, 2016, the Sobels will host an event with New England Patriots football player Joe Vellano at Windows on the Water at the Surfrider Beach Club in Sea Bright, New Jersey. All proceeds will benefit the Mark Sobel Jr. Endowed Scholarship at the University of Maryland. Tickets are available for $150 per person or $2,500 for a table of 10 with white-glove service. To purchase tickets, please contact Jennifer Casaregola at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-405-4324.
Donations to the Mark Sobel Jr. Memorial Scholarship fund can be made at http://go.umd.edu/sobelfund.
Media Relations Contact: Abby Robinson, 301-405-5845, email@example.com
About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 7,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college's 10 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $150 million.