For Hannah Burke Tambini, FCRH ’08, driving the Ram Van was more than just a job.
It was being part of a community.
And now, thanks to a gift from her husband Marc Tambini, FCRH ’08, Hannah, who died from complications from leukemia in January 2013, will forever be connected to the program.
At a ceremony at Rose Hill on May 2, the annual Ram Van driver’s award, which Hannah won twice during her time at Rose Hill, was officially rechristened the Hannah Burke Tambini Ram Van Driver of the Year Award.
The renaming was in recognition of a $33,500 gift from Marc, which represented half of the money he received from Hannah’s life insurance policy. He gave the other half to Maggie’s Place, a homeless shelter for pregnant women in Arizona, where Hannah volunteered after graduation with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.
Tambini said the couple had decided to give something to the program around the time they married, at the University Church, in November 2012. They rode a Ram Van to their reception at the New York Botanical Garden, and although Marc never drove the Ram Van (he doesn’t have a driver’s license), he said it was clear how much it meant to her. When she died, he wanted to memorialize her life, not the illness that took it.
“Before we got married, we went to the 30th anniversary of the Ram Van program, and had a great time. All her friends were there. I was an outsider, but I saw they had a very close-knit community,” he said.
“Part of it was she loved being on the road and driving, and part of it was just a very close-knit group of people.”
Marc Canton, FCRH ’01, GBA ’08, director of University transportation and a former Ram Van driver himself, said he was blown away by the gift, noting how unusual it is to give to a transportation program.
“In the office, we talk to students as much about things that are totally unrelated to the Ram Van, whether it’s something going on at home or how to deal with a professor. We just create an environment that people want to be in,” he said.
“For someone like Hannah, who was clearly a really special person, to feel so strongly, and then for Marc to follow up, is just overwhelming.”
Canton said Hannah won the award twice because in addition to a perfect attendance and driving record, she was a go-to person for anyone who needed someone to cover their shift.
“For years, we had difficulty really defining the award in a perfect way, and now that we have Hannah as our measuring stick, it makes it easier,” he said.
Two students won the award this year: Jennifer Whitford, GSB ’14, and Daniel Mullen, FCLC ’14. It was Whitford’s first win, and she said it was especially apropos to be connected with Hannah. The people in the program helped her get over extreme homesickness when she came to Rose Hill her freshman year, and like Hannah, Whitford found herself drawn to doing social service.
This year, in addition to driving, Whitford sent out a weekly email to the staff detailing not only important policies and dates, but also reminders if when students were acting in plays or playing in bands.
“If you need to have a conversation about your future, or you’re not sure where you’re going, what you’re studying, or what your purpose is, they’re always there to talk,” she said.
“We have such a strong community. The beauty of it is, none of us really have anything in common, other than we all know what it’s like to sit in rush hour traffic. It’s so much more than that though.”
Mullen, who is pursuing a master’s degree at the Graduate School of Education after graduation, won for a second time. He said a successful Ram Van person knows how to both navigate New York City rush hour traffic and get along with most everyone.
“We don’t have much obvious in common so we just find those things we do have in common, and everyone has a really good work ethic.
It makes it a community,” he said.