Meghan Walsh Cioffi
Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa

The volunteer mentoring and community service that Meghan Walsh Cioffi ’91 took part in as a UVM student lit the fire of commitment to serving people with challenges, which has been her driving motivation ever since.

An active student leader and member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority, Meghan Cioffi spent her UVM years engaged with the Center for Service Learning and the Volunteers in Action student club. She learned early the reciprocal value in mentoring through her work with Big Buddies, a program matching UVM students with Burlington children in need of extra support. She also volunteered at the J. Warren and Lois McClure Respite House. Mrs. Cioffi stood out as a student volunteer, acknowledged for her consistency, commitment, and accountability, especially when working with individuals with special challenges.

Her time spent learning in the field in these ways inspired Meghan Cioffi’s future plans. After receiving her degree in psychology, she worked at Big Brothers and Sisters of Morris County, New Jersey, before going on to earn a master’s in social work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and serving as an in-patient social worker at Stamford Hospital.

Recognizing the impact that her experiences at UVM had in directing her life path, in the mid-1990s Mrs. Cioffi and her husband, Rob ’90, along with Mrs. Cioffi’s parents (former UVM trustee Frank Walsh and Mimi Walsh) made a multi-year gift to the Office of Career Services to build a program for students seeking careers in the nonprofit sector. An early adopter of service learning, UVM was already a leader among its peers in connecting community service experiences with learning modules and academic goals. With this gift, Meghan Cioffi and her family helped UVM develop structures such as internships and mentoring networks that could turn students’ passion for community service into pathways for career development.

In late 1999, shortly after learning they were expecting their first child, Meghan and Rob Cioffi received the news that their baby would be born with Down Syndrome. What might be devastating news to many families was a challenge that the Cioffis embraced wholeheartedly. Leaning into the expertise in UVM’s College of Education and Social Services, Mrs. Cioffi began learning everything she could about creating an environment for children with Down Syndrome to thrive. Professor of education Susan Hasazi, an internationally known scholar in the field of special education and a renowned advocate for students with disabilities and their families, spared nothing in connecting Meghan and Rob Cioffi with the many resources that would help them to create a fully inclusive life for their firstborn daughter, Molly.

A second significant gift from Meghan and Rob Cioffi and the Walsh family in 2003 funded Susan Hasazi’s research into inclusion of students with special needs, which in turn launched a nationwide program to prepare school principals, superintendents, and other K–12 leaders to implement research-based practices for inclusion. The program developed a national network of inclusion advocates active today in schools around the country.

For the past 20 years, Mrs. Cioffi has been involved with STAR Inc.: Lighting the Way, a Connecticut-based nonprofit serving people of all ages with developmental and intellectual disabilities, as well as their families and caregivers. Meghan has served STAR in several volunteer and governance capacities over the years, and currently serves as president of the STAR board of directors. Additionally, over the past year, Meghan has served as a volunteer facilitator for grief bereavement groups through Mid-Fairfield County Visiting Nurse and Hospice and is working to create a bereavement program especially for children and families.

The Cioffis are the proud parents of three children. Molly is a fourth-year student in the Threshold Program at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Caroline just finished her Junior year at the University of Notre Dame, and Peter is a rising senior at St. Luke’s School in New Canaan, Connecticut.

Mrs. Cioffi has also held several volunteer roles as a UVM alumna, beginning as a recent graduate and continuing today. Most recently she served as co-chair of the national council for the Move Mountains campaign (2011–2019) and she is a current member of the UVM Foundation Leadership Council. In addition to her involvement at UVM and STAR, Meghan is a member of the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill School of Social Work advisory board, and she serves in various volunteer and leadership roles in her home community of New Canaan, Connecticut.

Through her dedication to community service, ignited at UVM and sustained through both hands-on and strategic support, Meghan Cioffi’s engagement and advocacy have opened pathways of possibility for individuals with developmental and intellectual challenges, students inspired by nonprofit work, and education leaders focused on creating inclusive classrooms. Meghan Cioffi lives the values the University of Vermont holds high for engaged citizenship and inclusive community building.