WRHU Radio Hofstra University was joined by university President Stuart Rabinowitz, Dean Mark Lukasiewicz of the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication and the large family of the late WRHU alumni Richard “Richie” Phillip Cavallaro for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 28.
Cavallaro died on November 17, 2017, at 28 years old from a virus that attacked his lungs and heart. WRHU was a place where he discovered and grew a passion for radio and technology. When WRHU decided to renovate its studios, the Cavallaro family donated to the cause to give back to the place their son loved. The studio was thus named the Richard Phillip Cavallaro Studio.
Cavallaro was unlike most students at WRHU. He was blind from birth, but defined himself by the following:
“Blindness is not the characteristic that defines me or my future. Every day the expectations of blind people are raised because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can have the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.”
His father, Rich Cavallaro, said the unveiling of the studio should not be a day of sadness, but a day of celebration.“The studio really was a happy place for him,” Rich said. “It really feels right to me that his name should bear on it.”
At first, Richie’s parents were unsure how he could be in the radio station as a blind person. They came to find that it was actually a perfect fit for their son. “What we didn’t realize is this was the perfect convergence of everything he does well,” said his father. “He loved music, he loved technology, and he loved to perform.”
The operations manager at WRHU, John Mullen, served as a mentor to Richie. “He was very inspirational to all of us,” Mullen said. “Now, twice a year we have a training class [for WRHU] with 60 to 70 students in it, and we tell Richie’s story. In the training class...he took his test in braille.”
Even the boards in the WRHU studio when Cavallaro was a student had braille so that he could tell the faders apart.
The WRHU general manager, Bruce Avery, was another mentor. He said what stood out to him the most was Cavallaro’s creativity and ability to overcome obstacles. “The creative process is different for everybody...but one of the universals about the creative process is the risk taking, and how it’s a drive to get in there and do things that are new,” said Avery. “Richie was a character, and he also was incredibly creative.”
To show how much the donation to the new studios meant to the entire radio station, Avery asked by show of hands how many students have used the studios to create something new and original. The response was met by overwhelming emotion from the Cavallaro family.
Richie studied information technology at Hofstra University, where he graduated in 2012.
The plaque ends with a quote from his family that says, “While Rich could not see with his eyes, he could see with his heart and always saw the best in everyone.”