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Those Who Touch Lives

Published October 17, 2016 in News

Charles Julian Bishko, David T. Gies, Commonwealth Professor of Spanish, and Brandi Durkac (left to right)

Although she only briefly met Bishko during that visit, it was the beginning of a friendship that would grow through her years at UVA and his retired years in Charlottesville. One of Durkac’s favorite memories is having lunch with Bishko at the Virginian where he regaled her with stories of his time in academia.

She remembers him as a “kind, very cheery, and sprightly” man who touched many lives through his teaching and generosity, which included a donation of his papers to the UVA library and support of an endowed professorship in history that bears his name. While Bishko was a positive influence on numerous students, he was deeply touched by Durkac’s friendship and proud of her accomplishments at the University.

Professor Bishko’s expertise in medieval Spain and Portugal impressed Durkac. She decided to spend a semester abroad in Seville. “It changed my worldview,” she said. “I had so many formative experiences. Out-of-the-local-box experience is critical for students.”

Her connection with Bishko continued after her college years, when she moved from Charlottesville. When Bishko passed away, Durkac learned that he had remembered her in his will. To her surprise, the gift was nearly the same amount as her student debt.

The synchronicity was obvious—and it motivated Durkac to include UVA in her own will.

“I always wanted to give to UVA scholarships,” said Durkac, who had benefited from scholarship support. Now a senior director in development at Georgetown University, she also gives annually to UVA’s College of Arts & Sciences. “Giving is now a habit,” she said.

Durkac grew up hearing her parents’ stories about the joys and adventures of college life—and about the importance of education and generosity. For Durkac, giving and family go together. Her ties to Professor Bishko are now generating new connections, linking UVA students with the resources to pursue their own life changing experiences.

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