For the past 37 years, Vinny, B.M.E. 1983, and Ellen Sica have been dedicated supporters of Catholic University, generously sharing their time, talent, and treasure. This August, they strengthened their legacy by bequeathing $5 million to the University in support of the School of Engineering and the Cardinal Athletics football program.
Vinny made his first gift to the University in the fall of 1983, just after he graduated — around the same time he met Ellen. He started with $100 and continued to give what he could every year thereafter. Ellen’s family also has a strong tradition of philanthropy, particularly in support of their universities, and that encouraged Vinny to keep giving.
“I just kind of assumed that everybody gave something to their alma mater when they graduated. It didn’t have to be a significant number. So I gave what I could, and I just kept doing it. We've been very blessed and in a position to give a good amount over the years.”— Vinny Sica, B.M.E. 1983
“Because we have always given, even right out of school, we told our kids that $100 a year is basically a nice dinner out. So right when you graduate, just start with a little bit, and do it each year,” Ellen said.
Over time, they began to make larger gifts. Vinny and Ellen have since funded two impact scholarships and consistently supported the School of Engineering and Cardinal Athletics. They are part of the 1887 Society, which recognizes leadership annual donors. The couple even has a dedicated booth at Murphy’s.
Vinny has also dedicated a significant amount of time volunteering in support of his alma mater. In 2002, he began serving on the Advisory Board to help renew the School of Engineering's ABET accreditation in mechanical engineering. After a few years, he joined the school’s Development Board, which later became its Board of Visitors. Five years ago, he switched over to the Athletics Board of Visitors to help drive support for student-athletes. In 2020, he accepted the University’s invitation to join the Board of Trustees.
He credits the hands-on education in mechanical engineering he received at Catholic University for his successful 35-year career in the field. Vinny found his very first internship through the employment posting board at the University’s career office, which led to his first full-time job. He spent most of his career with the firm known today as Lockheed Martin Corporation, retiring as a vice president and general manager for Lockheed Martin's space division in 2018.
In order to ensure future generations of engineers have similar opportunities, $2 million of the bequest will be used to establish the Sica Family Endowed Scholarship Fund for undergraduate scholarships in the School of Engineering.
“It really comes down to the quality of a small-school education, a small engineering school in particular, and the benefit you get from knowing your teachers, being hands-on, and is much more involved than just sitting in a big lecture hall,” Vinny said. “It's expensive — most small-school experiences are not cheap. We want to give students an opportunity to afford that small, private school education.”
Another important aspect of Vinny’s Catholic University experience was his time on the Cardinal football team. He played on the offensive line for four years and captained the team as a senior. To honor those memories and help drive the program into the future, the couple has pledged $3 million to establish the Vincent and Ellen Sica Endowed Coach for Catholic Football.
“Division III athletics are really important for folks who want to get a good education and continue playing a sport,” Vinny said. “We've been donating to the athletic program for 37 years, and we want to keep building it, and to do that you need stability and quality in the coaching staff.”
Vinny still keeps in touch with his former Cardinal head coach, Joe Pascal, and he and Ellen are friends with many of his teammates. That bond was a deciding factor in choosing to endow the head coaching position. As an honorary Cardinal, Ellen also has a vested interest in the University and the team’s success.
“We want to keep the football program going, because I see a community in Vinny and his friends that I never had at my school, and today some of our good friends are his fellow Catholic football players.”— Ellen Sica
This bequest was in the planning stages for almost a year. Last fall, Vinny attended a luncheon for the St. Thomas Aquinas Society, a community of alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and friends who have made planned gifts to Catholic University. The Sicas were already updating their estate planning, and this seemed like the natural next step to continue their support for the University.
“It’s going to take a while for Catholic University to actually see the money, hopefully,” Vinny joked. “It came down to the fact that I'm taking some of the money I was already giving each year and paying it toward this future gift. It’s a smart way to support the school, alongside my normal annual giving.”
The gift also counts toward Light the Way: The Campaign for Catholic University. This comprehensive campaign is the first of its kind for the University, and Vinny and Ellen were impressed with the public rollout in 2019. The Campaign inspired them to do even more to help preserve and advance the University's mission for generations of future Cardinals.
“We just want to make it a better place than it was yesterday,” Vinny said. “We got a ton out of my time at Catholic University, and then we spent a lot of time helping try to make it better for the next generation. That goes on and on, so you kind of continually pay it forward.”