Metro

THOMAS FARRAGHER

$1m donation to Suffolk honors an influential grandmother

The Cosgroves look over the tree they planted a year ago in honor of Graciela Rojas-Trabal, near the lakeside home in Wareham where she lived.
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
The Cosgroves look over the tree they planted a year ago in honor of Graciela Rojas-Trabal, near the lakeside home in Wareham where she was a summer guest.

WAREHAM — She grew up in poverty, the mother of seven, grandmother of 14, and the matriarch of a close-knit neighborhood in her native Dominican Republic, where she taught others what genuine riches really look like.

Her treasure was not kept in a bank account. It could not be measured in stocks and bonds.

It was simpler than that. Closer. Within arm’s reach.

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Her big family. Her grandchildren. A home that became a haven to anyone who needed a meal, a spare bed, or a sympathetic smile during the rough patches of life.

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What did Graciela Rojas-Trabal’s family learn from her?

“To be respectful. To be loyal,’’ her granddaughter Ingrid Cosgrove told me the other day on the porch of her family’s home here. “She was a loving woman. She was not rich. She worked in poverty. She was a poor woman, but if she had one hundred dollars and she knew you needed forty, she would give it to you.

“If she knew you were struggling with something, she would be there for you. And she would help you.’’

David L Ryan/Globe Staff
Ingrid Cosgrove has a photo on her cellphone of her grandmother Graciela Rojas-Trabal, the family matriarch.

Graciela died in 2017 at the age of 86, but now her family has found a way to keep her legacy alive. It’s a remarkable gift that will carry her name and will honor the woman who prayed the holy rosary each afternoon at 3 o’clock, a woman whose welcoming message was always this: Come in. Have a seat. Let’s share a meal.

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Suffolk University Law School this week is announcing a $1 million gift that Ingrid Cosgrove’s husband, health care venture capitalist Barry C. Cosgrove, said will help students like him, the son of a single mom who has become one of the law school’s most generous supporters.

“Hopefully, there will be a lot of kids like me from Brockton who have promise, but don’t have the confidence and don’t have the means to go to a place like Suffolk where there is rigor, but they also care,’’ Cosgrove said. “That’s a nice formula.’’

It’s a formula born out of a relationship that blossomed, remarkably enough, during the Red Sox historic 2004 championship season, when the New York Yankees won the first three games of a seven-game series before fortunes turned, history was made, and a curse was broken.

Barry and Ingrid watched one of the games of that titanic series in Miami, where from across a hotel lobby they first caught each other’s attention.

“I thought she was beautiful,’’ Cosgrove, 62, told me the other day. “She didn’t speak English. I didn’t speak Spanish. She had four kids. Who would believe that we would meet? It was meant to be.’’

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By the time they met, Ingrid, 50, was a widow with four children. They fell in love and got married in 2009. By then, Barry had met the woman at the center of his new love’s universe: Graciela.

“She helped me raise my kids,’’ Ingrid said of her grandmother. “They call her grandma. For them, she’s their grandma. You can’t say anything bad about my grandma with them. They just love her.’’

Her children recall Suffolk University’s newest scholarship namesake as the sweet soul who taught them about faith, about kindness, about what loving your neighbor really looks like. As they grew, their grandmother became their confidant, their friend, and their true north. When she took out the rosary beads each afternoon at 3, they witnessed how unwavering faith is practiced.

For Barry Cosgrove, whose own father abandoned his family when Cosgrove was just a little boy, she personified what family life should be.

Cosgrove is the founder of a dialysis company and has spent much of his time trying to figure out how to improve the lives of others.

“She had a remarkable and genuine ability to make people know she cared about them,’’ he said. “She raised her own kids and other people’s kids as well. She was a giver, not a taker. This gift will continue her giving.’’

When she died in late January 2017, there were nine days of services in Santo Domingo. More than 200 mourners lined up at the family home. Some slept in chairs or on couches. Buses transported her friends and family to the cemetery after her funeral Mass.

They recalled the woman whose morning greeting never changed.

“Bendición,’’ she would say. “Blessings.’’

“We have tried to keep her house the way she had it,’’ Ingrid Cosgrove said. “Everybody who goes on vacation in the Dominican, they go there to stay. She always told everyone, ‘This is the maternal house. This is the house for everyone.’ ’’

Money from the $1 million scholarship fund will soon be disbursed. Suffolk is looking for applications. It would be wonderful if the applicants are required to learn a little something about the woman whose name adorns that scholarship.

Barry Cosgrove, who once swept the floors at Cardinal Spellman High School in Brockton, would like that.

And so would Andrew Perlman, dean of the Suffolk Law School.

“What I love about this gift is that it’s so true to Suffolk’s identity,’’ Perlman told me the other day. “Suffolk got started as a school in 1906 and was intended to provide an opportunity for students to get an education when they otherwise wouldn’t have one, either because of their race, religion, or national origin. Discrimination was rampant back then. Suffolk was a place that opened doors for people who otherwise didn’t have a chance.’’

Now those doors are being held open by a Dominican woman who quietly, in dozens of small ways, made a huge impression.

“The way Barry is honoring his wife’s grandmother represents the kind of person who we have tried to give opportunity to,’’ the law school dean said. “She was a giving person and the idea that something is being created in her name that will give opportunity to young people for education is true to our founding vision.’’

Her family knows what Graciela Rojas-Trabal would have to say about all of this.

“Bendición.’’

Thomas Farragher is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at thomas.farragher@globe.com.