Saladins support MUSC and honor high school mentor through their estate plans

Lisa and Mike Saladin had hiked and climbed together for nearly 20 years without serious incident.

That changed in 2010 when Lisa, climbing a rock wall in Switzerland, misjudged a jump from one ladder to the next and almost fell 1,500 feet to the ground below.

“Technically, we’re not climbers. We’re trekkers,” said Mike, a researcher in the Department of Health Sciences and Research in the College of Health Professions.

“But the fact is, we’ve always done a lot of risky things in our life,” interjected Lisa, dean of the MUSC College of Health Professions. “And we didn’t have a will.”

The experience prompted the Saladins to sit down and write their wills. The process, they said, was preceded by a great deal of soul searching.

“We’d always supported wildlife and parks-related causes, and we’ll continue to do so,” said Lisa. “But in this case, we were looking for something that defined who we were. We also wanted to honor someone meaningful to us on a personal level. And we both thought of Sam.”

Salvatore “Sam” Scaletta was a 12th grade English teacher in the Saladins’ hometown of Winnipeg in the Canadian province of Manitoba. An animated lecturer with a gift for oratory, Scaletta opened his students’ eyes to the joy of learning and the limitless possibilities of life.

“You always wanted to do well for Sam. He was passionate and cared about you, but he also had really high expectations and standards. He inspired you to be your best,” said Mike. “I used to hold questions in my head during class. I’d go up to him afterwards and ask, ‘Well, what about this?’ and we’d talk about it. I just didn’t want his class to end.”

Scaletta was a powerful influence in Lisa’s life and career. After earning degrees in physical therapy and anatomy, she began her career in physical therapy “but always had inklings of education.” When she was asked to guest lecture in a class at the University of Manitoba, she jumped at the opportunity and discovered her true passion: teaching.

In 1990, she and Mike moved to Charleston, where she joined the faculty at the MUSC College of Health Professions. She quickly became known as a rising star in education, winning three University Teaching Excellence awards, the national Dorothy E. Baethke-Eleanor J. Carlin Award for Excellence in Academic Teaching and designation as a Master Teacher by the MUSC Board of Trustees.

Finally, in 2011, she was asked to become dean of the college. Despite the heavy work load involved with a deanship, she decided to retain her teaching duties.

“Not a lot of deans still teach, but I do because I have the same love of teaching. I think that came from Sam,” she said. The Saladins decided to honor of their old friend and teacher by establishing a new, permanent endowment in the College of Health Professions in his name to support the College’s Ph.D. in health and rehabilitation sciences program and the physical therapy program. They also established an annual scholarship in his honor.

To Lisa and Mike, the Scaletta endowment and scholarship are a particularly fitting tribute to a man whose service in the classroom had such a profound impact on his students’ lives. But in the end, said Lisa, their decision was rooted more in the heart than in the head.

“Bottom line, we did this because of a very personal and emotional attachment we have with Sam, ” she said. “It’s something we wanted to pay forward.”

The Saladins shared the news with Salvatore and his wife Carla during a recent visit to Winnipeg. “We told him at Christmas. We all cried,” said Lisa. “It was absolutely clear that he was touched.”

“He kept saying, ‘I don’t deserve this. I’m just a schoolteacher,’” added Mike. “He just doesn’t get his impact on others. This was our way of saying, ‘Sam! Look! You’ve made a huge difference!’”

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