Giuseppe Prezzolini, educator and philosopher, elevated Columbia University’s Casa Italiana to new heights.

In the course of a lengthy life, centenarian Giuseppe Prezzolini (1882-1982) made an unusually deep impression among Italian Americans during his residency here. Born in Perugia in 1882, he was raised in a family atmosphere that prized literature and culture. His intellectual gifts were evident as a young man as he collaborated with some of the more important philosophical minds in Italy. Through his role as editor of La Voce a periodical dedicated to Italy's moral, social and intellectual regeneration, he became the recognized leader of a generation of Italian writers interested in the country's spiritual regeneration. As a young man Prezzolini also served as a soldier and worked as a journalist. Prezzolini came to the United States in 1930 and for more than two decades taught at Columbia University. As director of the university's celebrated Casa Italiana, an institute dedicated to promote Italian culture, he energized the center's activity and attracted the admiration of numerous Italian American students for whom he served as teacher and mentor. The result was promotion of important new research and studies dealing with Italian culture. Under his guidance Casa Italiana also produced impressive journals, periodicals and newsletters. It also produced a worthy comprehensive critical bibliography on Italian literature. Over the course of a long career he had written 57 books, edited 70 anthologies and was a correspondent for over 200 publications in a dozen countries. A born educator, Prezzolini was an inspiration to numerous students, many of them Italian Americans, who gleaned a deep appreciation for Italian literature, philosophy and culture. One who did not have the gift of faith, he nevertheless asked a friend, his biographer, and former student, Sister Margherita Marchione "Don't forget me in your prayers. I believe they always help, even if one doesn't believe."

Sister Margherita Marchione with Pope John Paul II
Sketch of the Casa Italiana

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