Admired Uncles Provide Aid For Future Scholars


From left, Walter Watson and Charles Sotir.

The Thomas & Olga Sotir and Walter & Susie Watson Scholarship Fund

Charles Sotir and Walter Watson have long been terrific, helpful uncles to Nikolin, Alex Lisandri, Olsa and George Kutrolli. Now, to help other young people in years to come, Charles and Walter have arranged to designate a percentage of their estates for a scholarship at the Community Foundation. 

“Uncle Charlie and Uncle Walt have always been there for us. We hope that whoever receives this scholarship will remember their names, as we will remember them,” Alex Lisandri says.

Nikolin, Alex Lisandri and Olsa were born in Albania. Their parents, Garip and Valentina, emigrated in 1993, temporarily leaving their children in order to make a new home in New London. In 1995, when Nikolin and Alex Lisandri were 8 and 6, Walter went to Albania to bring them here. That same year, George was born here, and in 1997, Olsa, then 7, was able to join her family.

As the parents struggled to establish themselves (“Garip worked two jobs seven days a week,” Walter recalls), the uncles pitched in. They took the youngsters on trips and involved them in Cub Scouts and Little League. Especially, they helped them learn English and do their homework.

Nikolin graduated second in the New London High School Class of 2005, received the Community Foundation’s Marjory B. & Laurence P. “Jim” Smith Scholarship. “It’s a joy to have someone help you out,” he says. He graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2010 and in 2014, earned his MBA from Southern New Hampshire University.

All three of his siblings have followed in his footsteps as scholarship recipients from the Community Foundation: Olsa, (URI Class of 2013); Alex Lisandri, (UConn Class of 2011, and George Washington University Law School 2015); and the youngest, George, (Ohio State, Class of 2016).

“They’ve made us proud,” Walter says. He and Charles remember their own younger days. Charles says his Albanian immigrant parents “had it tough at first.” Walter worked his way through college after his father died. Now they see young people hit hard by the rising cost of college.

“Many who are qualified can’t go,” Charles says. So he and Walter are pitching in, establishing through their wills the Thomas & Olga Sotir and Walter & Susie Watson Scholarship Fund (named in honor of their parents) at the Community Foundation. It will aid a deserving student from any of the 11 towns served by the Foundation.

“We know the Foundation; it’s well administered. We feel very comfortable,” Charles says. “I think if more people know about it, more will do this — to help kids who deserve to go to college but can’t afford to.”

To create your fund, contact Alison Woods, (860) 442-3572 or alison@cfect.org.
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