Ask anyone who knew Kathy Guglielmo what she was like, and they’ll tell you she was one of the nicest people they’d ever known.
Selfless in both her personal and professional pursuits, Guglielmo was always last on her own list. She died of kidney cancer on Nov. 9, 2020, at just 51.
Guglielmo had completed every course but one required for her MBA in Health Care Administration at Wilmington University. Toward the end, she was too ill to study, even though she had purchased a WilmU diploma frame earlier in the semester. When Guglielmo realized that she wouldn’t fill the frame, she typed a few last wishes on her phone, one of which was to give the empty frame to her parents, never expecting it to contain the credential.
But in Dr. Ken Morlino’s eyes, Guglielmo had earned her degree and, along with College of Business Dean Dr. Kathy Kennedy Ratajack and WilmU’s administration, he saw fit to award the diploma posthumously.
“The College of Business wanted to recognize Kathy and honor her efforts,” says Dr. Morlino, associate professor and MBA chair. “We felt it was in the spirit of the WilmU mission to recognize her academic achievement. Absent her illness, Kathy would have completed her MBA degree in high academic standing.”
The framed diploma now rests in her parents’ home in Pennsville, New Jersey, on a wall next to Guglielmo’s portrait. The family held the frame up to the picture before hanging it, showing Guglielmo she was indeed a master’s-level graduate.
Karen Grant, Guglielmo’s twin, was born three minutes later than her sister and is considered the baby of the family. “Toward the end, in the emergency room, it all happened so fast,” Grant says. “Everything Kathy heard from that day forward was horrible, the hardest things anyone would have to hear, and she had to be strong. She never told me what the doctors told her because she always protected me.”
COVID-19 prevented the family from being in the hospital during Guglielmo’s final days. “She went through a lot, alone,” Grant says. “To handle it all herself was unbelievable to me.”
Guglielmo was director of finance and healthcare management at Saint Francis LIFE, an all-inclusive elderly care facility in Wilmington. “Kathy’s work ethic, attention to detail, and ease of sharing complicated financial information in a manner easily understood by colleagues was key to the success of the organization,” says Executive Director Amy L. Milligan. “Initially hired for her excellent knowledge and experience with finance, Kathy also embraced the Saint Francis LIFE mission to help frail, elderly, nursing home level seniors, 55 and older living in New Castle County, remain living in their own homes in the community rather than in nursing homes.”
Guglielmo was intricately involved in the vision and design of the second Saint Francis LIFE Center called College Avenue, set to open soon in Newark, says Milligan. “The Family Conference Room will be dedicated to Kathy’s work throughout her time with Saint Francis LIFE. Kathy’s spirit will be a constant presence in this room while caregivers, seniors, and our health team gather and partner in delivering quality care to our frail population. She will be missed and be in our hearts forever.”
Her memory will be respected throughout the WilmU community as well. “Kathy exemplifies the true meaning of a College of Business graduate,” says Dr. Kennedy-Ratajack. “She made meaningful contributions to the workforce and was committed to serving both Saint Francis and the community at large. We are so proud of her accomplishments.”
Ed Guglielmo says his sister worried about others in the final moments, her parents, siblings — especially her twin — and the elderly she served at work. “I even found a petition she was working on that supported the seniors,” he says, speaking on behalf of his other siblings, Patty and Bob, and parents Pat and Joan Guglielmo.
“She was a loving aunt to our boys, Jacob and Dylan,” adds Bill Grant, Guglielmo’s brother-in-law. “She didn’t have kids of her own, so she was a second mother to them.”
“Kathy was the best sister you could have,” Karen says. “I don’t think she ever knew the impact she had on all of us, but we do.”