Scholarship fund created in memory of Shady Side Academy teacher

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When Nick Coslov, 40, was growing up in Squirrel Hill in the 1980s and attending Shady Side Academy in Fox Chapel, life was good — but somewhat demanding.

He wore a suit and tie to school, where standards were high and expectations even higher.

The middle school classroom of English teacher William DeTillo was a place that fit in with the school’s standards but, at the same time, Mr. DeTillo’s “jovial” personality made it a sanctuary “where everybody could take a deep breath,” Mr. Coslov recalled.

So, when he learned in July that one of his favorite teachers had only days to live, Mr. Coslov, now a successful businessman in New York City, decided to establish a scholarship fund at Shady Side in his former teacher’s name. Mr. DeTillo died Aug. 1.

The $500,000 donation that will seed the William DeTillo Scholarship Fund is among the largest the school ever has received.

“We’re extremely grateful,” said spokeswoman Jen Roupe, director of communications at the private school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

She said the scholarship will be used to fully fund the tuition for qualified students who otherwise would not be able to afford to attend Shady Side Academy. It’s a mission that Mr. Coslov embraces.

“I had decided [a while ago] that I wanted to make a donation to Shady Side to impact students who couldn’t afford to go there,” Mr. Coslove said last week. “I was going to pick a student each year. But, when I learned that Mr. DeTillo was very sick, I reached out to him and told him I wanted to do this in his name. It was a way of honoring someone who was very important to me and to the school — a way to make it about him instead of about me.”

Mr. DeTillo, 72, was a middle school English teacher from 1971 to 1995. Ms. Roupe said he was “beloved” by his students, many of whom he nicknamed as members of what he called his “Aardvark Club.” He also founded the school’s drama program. After leaving Shady Side, he taught 11 years in the Armstrong County School District, Ms. Roupe said.

She and Mr. Coslov said Mr. DeTillo made a point of keeping up with his former students, using social media such as Facebook to maintain connections. On July 28, Mr. DeTillo posted that he was losing his battle with cancer. He said goodbye, prompting hundreds of people to respond within 48 hours.

Mr. Coslov, who had Mr. DeTillo in seventh-grade English and also was in his homeroom, was among them.

“I was Facebook friends with him for years,” Mr. Coslov said. “We had stayed in touch. ... When I saw that [July 28] post, I knew that the end was near because he was always so optimistic, a fighting kind of guy.”

He said his heart filled with emotion from memories of good times in Mr. DeTillo’s classroom. “It was like a sanctuary. He was a nurturing guy,” said Mr. Coslov, who attended the academy from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Within two days of Mr. DeTillo’s post, Mr. Coslov had spoken to him.

“He was incredibly clear and lucid. We had a great conversation. I told him how amazing it was, the impact he had on me and all these other kids. He took a pause and then he said that he learned as much from us as he ever taught us,” Mr. Coslov said. Mr. DeTillo was honored by the prospect of the scholarship.

Mr. Coslov, who graduated from the academy in 1992 and earned his bachelor’s degree from Duke University in 1996, is CEO and partner at Storage Deluxe, a Manhattan-based self-storage business. He and his wife, Nicole, live in New York City with twin boys, age 3.

Mr. Coslov and the school hope that other alumni and students’ families will contribute to the fund. To contribute, go to and enter “William DeTillo Scholarship Fund” in the comments box.

To donate by mail, a check payable to Shady Side Academy with “William DeTillo Scholarship Fund” in the memo line can be mailed to: Alumni & Development Office, Shady Side Academy, 423 Fox Chapel Road, Pittsburgh 15238.

Ms. Roupe said the academy’s goal is to grow its financial aid fund. About $3 million in aid is given annually to students — about 18 percent of the enrollment — but she said qualified applicants are left behind due to a lack of funds.

“Every year, there are a number in the financial aid wait pool who are students we really want but we don’t have enough financial aid to make it possible for them to come to us,” she said. “We want to make a Shady Side education possible for a larger group. We’ve been focusing our energies on this in recent years.”

The academy enrolls about 930 students. Tuition ranges from $8,650 annually for half-day pre-k to $28,300 annually for students in high school.

A memorial service was held last Thursday for Mr. DeTillo, who lived with his wife, Dawn, in Shaler.

Karen Kane: or 724-772-9180.





Karen Kane: or 724-772-9180.

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