Italian Awards Day at Wayne State University

May 06, 2014 1749

by Sandra Tornberg

On April 2, the Wayne State University Department of Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures held an Awards Day to recognize students who excel in their study of Italian.

Professor Raffaele DeBenedictis and Professor Don Spinelli, Department Chair, welcomed the students and their proud parents, grandparents, and friends. In congratulating the students, Professor Spinelli told them "Your interest in language will make you a better person".

The program started off with a reading of Giacomo Leopardi's poems "Alla luna" and "L'infinito" read by students Jacob Gross and Nicholas Recchia. Professor DeBenedictis reminisced about "L'infinito", telling the audience that all the schoolchildren in Italy had to memorize the poem.

Forty-eight students were recognized as "Outstanding Italian Students in the Basic Course Sequence", and eight students were recognized as "Outstanding Italian Students in Advanced Courses".

Jihad "Jay" Fahs read from Dante's Divina Commedia, Canto XXVI, in which Ulysses tells Dante and Virgil how he met his death. Graduating senior George Formicola presented "Italo Calvino e la nostra città invisibile", views of the city of Detroit through his own eyes paralleling Calvino's famous work.

Before adjourning to the beautiful Italian Heritage Room for a reception, three students were awarded scholarships. Deborah Benedic and Jesica Versichale of The Loft Fine Art gallery presented a scholarship to Flora Dusaj, which will facilitate her participation in the Wayne in Abruzzo Program this summer. The Loft Fine Art gallery held a special exhibit entitled "Buon Viaggio: A Visitor's Tour of Itlaly, and donated a portion of the sales, as well as the proceeds from a silent auction and raffle, to create this scholarship.

Nicholas Recchia received the Edith Seros Award, given in recognition of Mrs. Edith Seros and her vital role in the formation of the Italian Program at Wayne State University. Mrs. Edith Seros attended the College of the City of Detroit, now Wayne State University, from 1929 to 1933, at which time she was Aida Rosaria Assunta Peluso. At that time there were no Italian classes offered, so Mrs. Seros approached Professor Pucci, who taught Spanish, and requested that he teach Italian. The dean at that time rejected their request. Unwilling to accept defeat, Mrs. Seros approached the 33 Club, "those of us who were to graduate in 1933, and all of whom were women". She circulated a petition and received enough signatures to start one Italian class. This later inspired her generosity in creating this scholarship.

George Formicola received the Premio Pucci Award. Dr. Dominic L. Pucci founded Italian Studies at Wayne and was the chair of the Spanish and Italian Departments. A native of Calumet, in Michigan's upper peninsula, Dr. Pucci graduated from George Washington and Harvard Universities, and joined the faculty at Wayne State in 1930. He also served as a consultant for the Encyclopedia Britannica and as an interpreter for the U.S. Department of Immigration and Naturalization. He retired in 1970 after a forty-year career at Wayne State, and was a professor emeritus until his death in 1977. Dr. Pucci was affiliated with numerous cultural and academic organizations, including the Dante Society of America and the American Association of University Professors. He was a former vice-consul for Italy in Detroit, and the Italian government bestowed on him the Star of Italian Solidarity, for his work in cementing cultural relationships between Italy and the United States. Dr. Pucci's family generously created this award to honor and remember him, and also to continue to nurture and support the study of Italian at Wayne State.

It was gratifying to see that so many ethnically diverse students pursue their study of the Italian language, literature and culture with great enthusiasm.

Congratulations to all the students for their accomplishments and compliments to the Italian faculty at WSU for their instruction and for nurturing the love of Italian language, literature, and culture in their students.

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