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New Norwich scholarship honors Cole Occhialini

Norwich Tech graduating senior Cole Occhialini is hoping to eventually fulfill a life-long dream and open a ranch in Montana.

The 17-year-old described his career goals after becoming the first recipient of the Bob Murphy Memorial Scholarship, to be issued annually by the Norwich Area Veterans Council. Occhialini will first enter the United States Navy this September, for seven weeks of “boot camp” training at Great Lakes, Illinois, to be followed by training at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton.

He will enter the Navy as a submarine electronics field technician, where he can study to be a sonar technician; a fire control technician, which makes sure missiles fire smoothly and accurately; or an electronics technician, which deals with submarine electronics.

Once he finishes his Navy career, though, Occhialini says it’s out west to the open spaces and opening a ranch.

“Ever since I was young, my buddy and I made a pact to do that,” he said. “My friend has different plans now, but that’s what I want to do. I know it’s going to be a tough life, but it’s going to be peaceful. I don’t like it in cities.”

Occhialini studied automotive repair at Norwich Tech, was a captain on the school’s football and lacrosse teams, and has been a member of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps. He says he’s honored to be the first recipient of the Murphy Memorial Scholarship. It’s named after Veterans Council member Bob Murphy, who died from COVID-19 last October.

The Council’s Public Information Officer, and Chairman of the Murphy Scholarship Committee, Tom Callinan says Murphy had a heart for veterans and tradespeople. A plumber by trade, Murphy was also a first responder, and Commander of the Three Rivers Young Marines, among other things.

“Bob’s larger than life presence and indomitable spirit in the Veterans’ Council have been sorely missed, and the council is delighted to pass on the respect and admiration we have for all he accomplished to Cole, and to those who will follow as recipients of the Bob Murphy Memorial Scholarship,” said Callinan in a press release.

Unlike most student scholarships, the Murphy award doesn’t necessarily target those with high academic achievement. Qualifications for award recipients include being a good-to-average student with an overall grade in the B-to-C range, who shows potential beyond academic achievement.

“This gives a student who might be less likely to be recognized, an incentive to strive for success,” according to a release.

Other qualifications include a “patriotic individual”, or one who comes from a military or first-responder family; a student who works well with, and helps other students; a student who’s going on to further education, and could use some money for books and related expenses; and a student planning to enter the military.

Occhialini was presented at a June 2 Veterans Council meeting with a certificate, a $250 check, and a challenge coin from Murphy’s widow, Shannon. Challenge coins are usually presented by people with military connections to those who show notable accomplishments.

“Bob always carried one,” said his wife. “His was from the President.”

The one she presented to Occhialini was from a submarine commander.

Shannon Murphy says the annual scholarship in her husband’s name is “something really special. He’d be proud of Cole being the first recipient.”

Occhialini says he was surprised with the scholarship. “I really wasn’t expecting to get one this year,” he said.

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