‘In the name of Steve’: Codella Family creates scholarship to honor late son

Doctor’s family hopes to award students with son’s shared passions.

Describing Stephen Codella might just be an impossible task.

He was a loving son, big brother, caring doctor, talented musician, respected friend, and someone whose mere presence in a room attracted others. So when Stephen passed away Jan. 27 after a fight with cancer, his family sought a way to honor his passions while carrying on his memory.

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“All of this is in the name of Steve,” said his mother, Dr. Catherine (Nicolaides) Codella who with her husband Mark, also a doctor, and daughter Alex Codella created a high-school scholarship and medical endowment fund in Stephen’s name. 

The Stephen E. Codella M.D. ‘08 Scholarship Fund will award a South Jersey middle-school student who plans to attend Saint Joseph’s Preparatory School in  Philadelphia, someone with a few of the same passions as Steve: music and science. 

“You would be so impressed by everything he did,” said Catherine as she watched videos of her son’s many musical performances, whether they were organized shows at Philadelphia bars with one of his bands or even the rehearsal dinner of his best friend Michael Powell’s wedding. She said 

“He was always playing something.” 

The endowment fund will award funds to subsidize research presentations by a Temple University Hospital fellow interested in Pulmonary Medicine”. Steve was in his first year of a fellowship when he passed away.

“It was his dream,” Mark recalled of his son. “He worked at the hospital on the front lines during (early) COVID before being accepted into the fellowship for pulmonary critical care … In Steve’s name,  we (also) formed an endowment fund with the Temple Lung Center for pulmonary fellows.”

Everyone close to Steve was impressed by his passion for life – and for guitar, piano, hiking, “Star Wars,” Halloween costumes, hockey, karate, and, maybe more than any other, an ever-expanding friend group. 

In a speech at Steve’s celebration of life, Powell thanked Steve for being “the glue that kept us (St. Joe’s) Prep guys together, creating a best friend group that is truly irreplaceable, despite (our differences).” Catherine and Alex remember his ease at making friends, some of whom have become like family to them.

“He was the best at making friends, he (always) found the best friends, they are all such amazing people,” said Alex, who’s engaged to Prep graduate Chris Piccione, not surprisingly  also a friend of Steve’s.

“His high-school friends were friends with his medical school friends, his medical school friends were friends with his residency friends … (He had) a way of (bringing people together),” Catherine noted.

Steve’s friends joined the Codella family the weekend before Thanksgiving for the annual Wendy’s Thanksgiving,” a tradition Steve and his friends had involving a feast of the fast-food chain’s burgers, sandwiches, fries and other menu items. 

“When he became sick, they were always here (at the house),” Catherine recalled of Steve’s friends, who would spend as much time as they could with him and his family during his battle with cancer.

“They loved him so much.” 

Catherine and Mark moved into Steve’s home in Cherry Hill with him to make sure he was never alone. Alex moved from Philadelphia to be within a 10-minute drive of her big brother. 

“With (COVID), I would get home from the hospital, shower in Voorhees, then go over to the (Cherry Hill) house and be there with Steve,” said Mark, who works at Nazareth Hospital in Northeast Philadelphia and Jeane’s Hospital an of affiliate Temple Hospital.

Alex was born 18 months after Steve and lived her life looking up to him in one way or another. 

“His band was always practicing at our house,” Alex remembered. “I would go in and listen to them … I loved to always be involved in whatever he was doing. As we got older, we hung out a lot … In college at Fordham, (where Steve and Alex both  attended) … He moved to Philly, so I moved to Philly.

“I always wanted to be where he was.” 

The Codella family agreed the two things closest to Steve’s heart were his love for his immense Saint Joe’s Prep friends, medical school friends and those he met in residency, so it was an easy decision to start the  scholarship and endowment process. 

At his funeral, the Codellas selected three charities for donation in lieu of flowers: MatchDog Rescue, a canine rescue community in South Jersey where Steve adopted his dog Archer; Musicopia Charity of Philadelphia, a nonprofit  that provides children opportunities to experience and appreciate music through education and instrument donations; and the Fox Chase Cancer Center for sarcoma research. Steve’s disease, rhabdomyosarcoma, is a form of sarcoma.

“The response to those three charities was overwhelming …” said Mark. “After a month trying to see how else we could (honor) his memory and serve the community, we were pretty much all in agreement that the two things that were very dear to Steve (was) the Prep and the Temple  program where he still has a significant amount of friends. The physicians were very supportive.”

Mark also cited the outpouring of support from Dr. Gerard Criner, chair and professor of thoracic  medicine and surgery at The Lewis Katz School of Medicine. There is no doubt among Steve’s family, friends and fellow residents that he would have made an excellent attending physician. Their hope is that the endowment and scholarship will inspire someone to follow in Steve’s larger-than-life footsteps. 

For more information regarding the Saint Joseph’s Prep scholarship visit https://www.sjprep.org/support-the-prep/ways-to-give For more information regarding the endowment in Steve’s name at the Temple Lung Center, visit https://advancement-sec.temple.edu/s/705/giving/19/interior_form.aspx?sid=705&gid=1&pgid=3813&cid=5100&bledit=1&dids=986.1061.1071&sort=1&appealcode=SOL_CUSTOMURL

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