When Ryan DePasquale officially accepted a position at Brown as a financial aid counselor, he called Jennifer Bianco, an associate director of financial aid, who “immediately screamed with excitement.”
Her reaction “made me feel immediately valued and even more excited about my decision,” DePasquale, now an assistant director of financial aid, wrote in an email to The Herald. Bianco’s “outlook on life and how to treat people will leave a lasting impact on the rest of my life.”
Bianco passed away on Dec. 30, 2022 at age 39, leaving behind a legacy of mentorship, support and care for colleagues, students, families and the Brown community. Bianco came to the University in Oct. 2018 “with extensive experience in financial aid,” wrote Dean of Financial Aid Sean Ferns in an email to The Herald.
Bianco received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Tampa and an MBA from Nichols College in Massachusetts, according to an obituary written in her honor. She worked in financial aid at Nichols for over eight years, serving as director of financial aid before coming to Brown.
At Brown, Bianco was a supervisor and mentor to most of the office staff, Ferns wrote. She cultivated relationships with different departments and students across campus and transformed “the customer service experience for students, families and the community.”
Carissa Pereira, an assistant director of financial aid, described Bianco as “truly the best boss you could ask for” in an email to The Herald. With the same “at-home” and “at-work” personality, she was approachable, inclusive and easy for students and families to talk to, Pereira wrote. She recalled receiving messages from students extending condolences to the office after Bianco’s passing, with many saying “Jen is the reason I am here at Brown.”
Bianco also advocated for her employees: She was “100% there for you both in times of need and in celebration,” Pereira wrote. “She had this amazing way of making you feel better about yourself after any interaction you shared with her … (and) supported your personal pursuit of happiness above all.”
With a “bright personality,” “infectious laugh” and “good energy,” Bianco “made it easy to feel at home in her presence,” Pereira wrote. “She was a true warrior.”
Bianco “was like the sister I never had,” Matt Davis, an assistant director of financial aid, wrote in an email to The Herald. Davis suffers from an autoimmune disease and recalled how Bianco would check in daily on how he was doing. They would “sit and talk, laugh and sometimes just cry together.”
Bianco “had a way of making you feel special,” giving everyone her “100% undivided attention,” Davis wrote. “She just emanated positivity and love for others.”
Even after her passing, Bianco has been a source of strength for Davis. He remembered working late on one particularly tough day where he “went to her office and sat there in the dark and just talked to her.”
“I really felt her presence that night and it helped me,” Davis wrote. “Her light still shines on all those who knew her.”
When Gracie Cruz, an assistant director of financial aid, first met Bianco, she was taken aback by her vibrant energy. But after a few months, “we found that we had so much in common in both our work and private life that it was easy to build a friendship,” Cruz wrote in an email to The Herald. “It was like we’d known each other for 20 years.”
“Her acceptance towards others was contagious, and that's just one of the things that I loved about Jen,” Cruz wrote. “She loved and accepted everyone regardless of the situation.”
Bianco was also “the life” of office retreats and parties, Cruz recalled. When she told Bianco that she was expecting her third child, Bianco “was as genuinely excited for me as though she was my closest family member,” Cruz wrote.
Bianco’s energy, laugh, patience and “love for dance, people and her family” are remembered fondly by Cruz. “Jen was a true asset to Brown University and the world.”
“Jen made you feel like you had been friends with her your whole life,” DePasquale wrote. “She was someone I felt comfortable with and trusted very early on because I knew she genuinely cared about me as a person and wanted the best for me.”
DePasquale admires how much Bianco valued her relationships within the office and the “infectious energy” she showed up with each day, regardless of what she was going through. “She was so supportive and always had your back no matter what,” he wrote.
Beyond her legacy at Brown, “our hope is that she be remembered as an even better mom to her two children, wife, daughter, sister, friend and overall an extraordinary human being,” Ferns wrote.
“She changed my outlook on life. … She changed everyone who met her,” Davis wrote. “Jen left a light in this world that will never diminish.”
Rhea Rasquinha is a Metro Section Editor covering Development and Infrastructure and also serves as Co-Chief of Illustrations. She previously covered the College Hill, Fox Point & the Jewelry District and Brown & Beyond beats. Rhea is a junior from New York studying Biomedical Engineering and loves dark chocolate and penguins.