Mike Bennett’s Memories of Joe

This weekend we learned of the passing of Joe Roberto. Michael Bennett’s memories of Joe were shared on the NJASFAA listserv this morning. They describe the Joe Roberto many remember. Here are his recollections:

Like many of my financial aid colleagues and friends, I became numb at the news of Joe’s passing and cannot imagine a world without Joe in it. Joe was larger the life, a big part of conference success and enjoyment (NJASFAA, EASFAA, NASFAA) and touched everyone he met. Below are some thoughts on Joe.

Joe was an AMAZING story teller

Joe filled every room he ever walked into. I also enjoyed the look on someone’s face when they first met Joe and as he roared a story. Eyes would be blinking and darting, feet would be shifting and they would be thinking this simply can’t be true!

Joe was “The Most Interesting Man in the World” before the guy on the Dos Equis commercials.

I like to believe EVERYONE of Joe’s stories were 100% accurate.

Joe was “Mr. Financial Aid” (period)!

Joe has done more high school financial aid presentations that Mc Donald’s has sold hamburgers. (and I know Dave Sheridan will pick up the 1,000 FA presentations scheduled for this Spring. One of my favorite written pieces by Joe was written in March 2003.  Joe Roberto’s – No Such Thing as a Dumb Question?


Joe was a Man of Faith

Joe was a “favorite son” of every Roman Catholic “Sister”, priest, school, parish and probably Pope Francis.

The outpouring of prayer at the news of Joe’s passing probably had Joe coming through the pearly gates in a limousine waving to St Peter mouthing “I’ll stop back later”

Joe ran Financial Aid Conferences

Joe was never wrong and there was only one way to do things – Joe’s way. If you served on a conference committee with Joe you simply “buckled up and enjoyed the ride.”  You were not to worry about ANY details, Joe had EVERYTHING under control and a vast invisible network of “friends” handling things. I LOVED every moment I would have with Joe at a conference.

Joe liked to EAT

I am proud to admit, as are many of Joe’s friends, that I ate until closing at several buffets with Joe (the more Italian food, the better).

Joe was an AMAZING gambler

I spent time with Joe in the casino and at the horse track and laughed when he said “I’m going to find you a hot slot machine” Minutes later I was asking him to help me carry my winnings to the cashier. His horse betting strategy was more complicated than Federal Methodology ..  he won 2 trifectas a day we were at the track together.

You held your breath anytime Joe had a microphone in his hand

One of my favorite Joe stories was when we had to evacuate the hotel at a NJASFAA conference. Let’s just say Sister Ann Michelle could have been better prepared to flee her room at 3 am. As I followed Sister Ann out of the building, I prayed softly for God to temporarily blind the large crowd waiting for us so they would not be traumatized by the pajamas and robe she was wearing.  Most of the crowd out of respect looked down and would not make eye contact with Sister. The next morning at breakfast, Joe walked up to the microphone and said “And the winner, for Best Dressed in a Fire Drill goes to Sister Ann Michelle!”

Joe was a wonderful gift giver

Joe and I LOVE Bruce Springsteen. One of the nicest moments I ever had was when Joe (with a full security detail) moved my son and I from the back of the stadium floor to 15th row seats and gave us the night’s song list set at a Springsteen concert at the Meadowlands. (Sing it with me “Glorrryyyyy Daaaayyyysss”).

Joe loved Donna, Nicholas, Jackie his extended family most of all

Joe leaned the most on those he loved the most. He never stopped talking about his family and brought his family to most financial aid conferences.

One thing I do know, as a father and a man. I know throughout his entire being, Joe realized he was blessed with the greatest gift of all.

The gift that gives true peace when it is time to return Home … and that gift is “Family” The greatest peace comes from knowing “My family will be my monument”

I celebrate Joe’s life and legend. I know he would want us to have the courage and the will and the strength to go on with our lives, as painful as that may be. To always remember Joe, his legendary stories, the principles he stood for, and most importantly, the deep love he had for each of us.  Joe is a “friend of mine” and a “friend of ours” and as Jersey natives, you know what that means.

Any conversation that I ever had with Joe ended with Joe saying the following words. Joe would say “If you need anything, and I mean anything, you call me.” Truer words have never been spoken and I would hope that Donna, Nick and Jackie know we now back that promise on behalf of Joe.

May the values that Joe lived and the love that he gave warm our hearts until will see him again.

Michael J. Bennett

Associate Vice President, St. Petersburg College

NJASFAA and EASFAA Past President, Past National Chair of NASFAA

Honored Friend of Joe Roberto

1 thought on “Mike Bennett’s Memories of Joe

  1. Mike’s comments just about say it all, there’s not much to add. Joe was a friend to all of us; he was always there when anyone needed anything, and he was never happier than when he was helping people. It’s hard for me to think of someone who better fit the core of what being a financial aid administrator is all about. He wasn’t a bureaucrat, he wasn’t a techie, he wasn’t a policy geek; he wanted to help people. His mantra, whether it was at a conference or a committee meeting or for those of us who also encountered him at events at the Meadowlands, was “if you need anything, let me know.” And he meant it; if you didn’t need anything, he’d be kind of disappointed.

    Now that he’s gone, my collection of emails with the subject line “FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: This is funny” will be greatly diminished. No more emails that most of us probably first saw in 1997, but Joe just wanted to make us laugh and lighten up a bit. Not a bad idea. I imagine that many of us will be sharing Joe Roberto stories for a very long time to come, and I’m grateful that he’s given us those memories that will last us a lifetime.

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