1977
Angelo Bartlett Giamatti first Italian American to become Ivy League College President.


Angelo Bartlett Giamatti (1938-1989) was born of an Italian father and a mother from an established New England family. Giamatti gleaned an appreciation for intellectual pursuits from his father Valentine, a second generation Italian American who was the beneficiary of fine education including a degree from Yale University and a Ph. D. from Harvard University and who taught Italian at Mount Holyoke College. Both parents traveled to Italy and were fluent in Italian. After attending the prestigious Phillips Academy, he went to Yale University where he received a Bachelor's degree and a Doctorate degree in comparative literature with an emphasis on Italian. He also had the enriching personal experience of living in Italy. Giamatti's professional career included two years teaching at Princeton University followed by 12 years of teaching medieval and Renaissance literature at Yale University. He published a number of scholarly books and articles on the Renaissance and made appearances in public programs that drew on his expertise. He also published knowledgeable pieces about baseball. Not surprisingly Giamatti made national headlines in 1977 when Yale University appointed him president of the venerable institution; its youngest and the first not entirely of Anglo Saxon background -he was the first of his nationality to become president of an Ivy League college. Succession to such a prominent position was doubly significant in view of the fact that relations between the university and the large Italian American population of New Haven could be described as poor only a generation before. Giamatti's task was not only to lead Yale in retaining its vaunted reputation as a superior academic institution but also to improve its weak financial posture. Upon his appointment he uttered prophetic words: "All I ever wanted to be was president of the American League."

In addition to serious academic pursuits from boyhood Giamatti possessed a fervent interest in baseball demonstrating a familiarity with statistics that could rival that of any baseball junkie. An ardent Boston Red Sox fan his earnest attachment to the sport found him voluntarily leaving the halls of academe in order to assume the position as President of the National League in 1986 -a truly extraordinary development. Baseball owners were apparently impressed with his leadership style at Yale especially with regard to his handling of labor disputes. Alongside of his devotion to the Red Sox, Giamatti kept a scorecard of his own Italian American All Star team consisting of some of the game's finest players. In 1988 he was named Baseball Commissioner -the first Italian American to achieve that post. He gained notoriety during his short tenure for his reprimand and expulsion from baseball of Pete Rose, one of the game's major stars, over gambling problems that threatened to tarnish baseball's reputation. Giamatti died of a heart attack shortly after.

Yale University




View Previous Entry     View Next Entry       Back to Timeline