Selfless deeds lead to mother-and-son scholarships

Selfless deeds lead to mother-and-son scholarships

A  passion for helping others through the arts at Georgia College runs in Paul Guy Accettura’s family. His mother, Mabel, “Mabs” sacrificed her own needs by placing others first. She was also a strong advocate of education and the arts. So much so, that Paul provided a scholarship for students enrolled in the Georgia College Theatre and Dance Department. 

Now—during her birth month of March—Paul and his wife, Dr. Karen Berman, theatre chair and artistic director of theatre and dance celebrate Mabel’s life of 91 years and fond moments they shared. 

Mabel “Mabs”Accettura
Mabel “Mabs”Accettura

Mabs grew up near London, England, and came to the United States when she was just 21 years old—just after the end of WWII—to marry Guy Accettura, an Italian American U.S. soldier, whom she met while volunteering for the United Service Organization in London during the war. 

Mabs raised five children in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, and Northern New Jersey, while her husband worked. Although he was a successful businessman, the family lived frugally in modest homes. Mable never bought anything for herself. Instead, she focused her energy on caring and providing for her family. 

Paul wanted to give the scholarship as a tribute to immigrants who have come to the United States, since both of his parents immigrated to this country and believed in, and lived, the American dream and gave so much to all of their children. 

Mabel “Mabs” Accettura with her children, including Paul (center).
Mabel “Mabs” Accettura with her children, including Paul (center).

“Because she was the wife of a fairly-prominent person, my mother never got any accolades,” said Paul. “She spent her whole life taking care of her five children and gave us everything we needed.”

Later, Mabel became an avid tennis player and a strong supporter of education and the arts. She was also very supportive of her five children and daughter-in-law, Berman. 

Mabel began supporting universities , because Berman was involved in higher education. 
 
For nearly 12 years, Paul has heeded his mother’s example by giving to Georgia College as a volunteer for the Department of Theatre and Dance. 

He retired as a federal tax attorney in Washington, D.C. after 32 years, specializing in exempt organizations like universities, hospitals and political campaign committees. 

“The best part of my work was that I was serving the public interest,” he said. “I was involved in decision making that was for the public good.”

Paul also chaired the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee of the Office of Chief Counsel, IRS and won an award for embracing diversity. 

“Back then, most of the attorneys were white, and the secretaries were almost all black,” he said. “So I said, ‘Something’s wrong here.’ I thought, let’s have the secretaries get paid for paralegal training through the Chief Council’s Office and, then, hire them as paralegals, which gives them a higher salary.”

“I’ve been very fortunate in this life,” he said. “And, a lot of people haven’t been, so I’ve tried to help change that.”

Paul inherited his mother’s British personality, and he also believes in and tries to model her support for education.   

“She was a very warm and selfless person,” he said. “I don’t ever remember a single moment where she said, ‘No I can’t do that, because I’m going to go to the movies.’ She never did anything for herself. Almost no one gets that. She was always there, and she would never have a moment where she wouldn’t listen and talk to you.”

Mabs’ kindness helped shape Paul as a person.

“ hope the scholarship recipients have a life where they’re happy, creative and love what they’re doing. I would also like for them to help others through theatre or something creative that helps other people—through stories they tell, which is what theatre is all about—educating people for the greater good.”
– Paul Accettura

“She never said a bad word about anybody,” said Paul. “I’ve always felt that’s the way I should be. And, I’ve always appreciated her for that.”

He has a memory of Mabel telling others that they must have gumption to get through life. That’s what helped prompt this scholarship. Paul thinks the most valuable aspect of scholarships is acknowledging students for their work. 

“I think a college degree from a strong liberal arts school, like Georgia College, really gives them a leg up that’s almost essential,” Paul said.

His wife agrees. 

“You want to create perseverance for them,” said Berman. “There’ve been studies about grit. And you want to give those funds to say, ‘We believe in you. You’re going to do it.’” 

Since Paul’s mother and father were children of the Great Depression, they saved, because they thought the financial market would see a torrential downturn. They never bought ‘things’ but never scrimped when it came to university donations. Paul hopes to honor that legacy with a scholarship.
   
“Let’s connect the kids to education,” Paul said. “There are a lot of students coming to Georgia College, who are struggling to get here—not just because of their grades, but because their families have never gone to college, so the parents didn’t encourage it.” 

To offset this, Paul offers the “Mrs. Mabel Accettura Endowed Theatre Scholarship” for Georgia College theatre students in financial need. He wants his mother’s passion for education to live on in students who can’t afford college.  

“I hope the scholarship recipients have a life where they’re happy, creative and love what they’re doing,” Paul said. “I would also like for them to help others through theatre or something creative that helps other people—through stories they tell, which is what theatre is all about—educating people for the greater good.”

To learn how you can encourage students by providing a scholarship for the Department of Theatre and Dance, contact Bob Preston, senior engagement officer, College of Arts and Sciences at 404-493-5723 or bob.preston@gcsu.edu.