Rowan-Virtua SOM dedicates Hope Brings Strength Health Sciences Library in memory of donors’ grandson

Rowan-Virtua SOM dedicates Hope Brings Strength Health Sciences Library in memory of donors’ grandson


Bobby Ferro always had hope and strength, traits that never left him even after he was diagnosed, at 17, with a brain tumor, and during his 10-year battle against the disease.

On Feb. 12, the Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine (SOM) in Stratford dedicated the Hope Brings Strength Health Sciences Library in memory of Ferro, whose younger brother Jonathan is a fourth-year student at the school.

Ferro’s grandparents, Dr. John and Ann Baldwin, donated $500,000 to SOM, a gift that will support the library and establish the Hope Brings Strength endowed scholarship for disadvantaged medical students with financial need.

Speaking before the library’s dedication, Bobby’s mother, Alysia Baldwin Ferro, said the family was so moved by the warmth and kindness of SOM faculty and staff, especially leading up to and following Jonathan’s White Coat Ceremony – when Bobby had just days to live – that they decided to make this gift to support students at the school.

She said when Bobby, her second of three sons, was first diagnosed with the tumor, a half dozen neurosurgeons said because of its location, an attempt to surgically remove it would mean he'd never speak again and not likely graduate from high school, let alone college.

Refusing to accept that prognosis, the family consulted another neurosurgeon. The doctor couldn’t promise a cure, but he did offer hope, and his optimism led to a family motto: “Hope brings strength.”

“Bobby went on to graduate high school, and college, and he received his master’s degree in clinical and mental health counseling,” Baldwin Ferro said.

Bobby became an addictions counselor in Philadelphia and traveled the world.

“He climbed Machu Picchu, hiked the Amazon, dived under the caves in Hawaii and stood on the cliffs and glaciers of Iceland,” Baldwin Ferro said.

In 2018, days after a scan showed the tumor had developed further, Bobby announced that he and a friend were going to Paris where he’d climb the Eiffel Tower.

His mother said Bobby, who passed away Sept. 5, 2021, never let his disease define him.

“Bobby was always on the move, always with a zest for life,” she said.

Rowan University Provost Tony Lowman and SOM Interim Dean Richard Jermyn said the family’s support of students who hope to one day help others is a testament to Bobby’s life and spirit.

“The choice to give back in his memory will carry forward forever,” Lowman said.

Said Jermyn, “the library is a place to dream and hope that one day I may become a doctor.”

Now Vice President for the Virtua Health College of Medicine & Life Sciences, former Dean Thomas Cavalieri knew Jonathan when he started medical training and said the family’s gift “is right at the heart of the mission of our school. The message of hope is integral to the type of physicians we want to train.”