POINT Chapter 15 Meeting - February 5, 2000

POINTers In Person
Chapter 15
Northern New Jersey

P.O. Box 636
Totowa, New Jersey

Pursuing Our Italian Names Together

February 5, 2000

Albert Marotta (#1018)
The Northern New Jersey chapter of POINTers in Person met at the Housing Authority Community Room in Garfield, NJ for its first meeting of the year on February 5, 2000. Thirty-eight people attended, representing Bergen, Passaic, Essex, Union, Somerset and Sussex counties in NJ and the Bronx, Rockland, Dutchess and Nassau counties in NY

Annita Zalenski (#39) opened the meeting by informing members that Bob Scussel (#2437) would be retiring as Executive Director of the Garfield Housing Authority at the start of next year. This means that the chapter must find a new place to meet for next year. Bob has been very generous by providing the community room for the chapter's meetings since its second one in 1997. The site-finding committee will include Geri Mola, Mildred Albarella (#3896), Maria Carparelli (#2100) and Maryjane Proctor. Annita also handed out applications for the POINT Converence 2000 to be held in Austin, Texas.

Lillian Pappas (#3717) presented the treasurer's report and said that the chapter now has a total membership of 49 (33 of these paid dues for 1999/2000).

June DeLalio (#1181) mentioned www.myfamily.com as a place to hire a genealogist in Italy. Also it was reported that the Brooklyn naturalization index for 1907-1924 is online.

Dr. William J. Connell, a professor in the History Department of Seton Hall University (South Orange, NJ) who holds the La Motta Chair in Italian Studies, gave the prsentation. The topic was, The Valente Collection at Seton Hall University.

Dr. Connell first attempted to explain why someone with no obvious connection to Italy became interested in the country. Although he grew up in an Italian neighborhood in the Bronx, it was while a freshman at Yale University that his interest in Italy caught fire. It was there that he heard Professor Barlett Giamatti (Epic Poetry professor, former president of Yale, once Commissioner of Baseball and a Baseball Hall of Fame member) give a presentation which was meant to prove the superiority of Dante to Virgil and Homer. After learning to read Italian, Dr. Connell wanted to be a scholar of Renaissance Italian History. The summer after graduation, he worked as a field hand on the Island of Elba. There he met Mr. Talone, a farmer and ironworker (and prominent in the PDUP), who lived on that island all year. This man taught him that Italian was not only a language of books, but to be lived. The power of words was reinforced by hard physical labor.

Dr. Connell received his doctorate from Berkeley. Even this location had significance for Italians. There was where Amedeo Peter Giannini established the Bank of Italy in 1904. Since Italians couldn't get loans, except from loan-sharks, Mr. Giannini taught them to deposit money in the bank and then sent the message that the bank would open on the next day to give loans on the basis of need. By 1930 it had become the Bank of America and by 1945 it was the world's largest private bank. After World War II, in order to promote the study of Italy, he offered half of the bank's money if the Italian community could raise the other half. This was later agiven to five historians to study Italian history.

The Italian Collection at Seton Hall is under the care of the Joseph M. and Geraldine C. La Motta Chair in Italian Studies. Mr. La Motta is a Seton Hall alumnus and was CEO of Oppenheimer Securities. The Collection was established in 1997 by Mr. Salvatore Valente, CEO of Bildisco Mfg. Inc./The Door Depot of Northern NJ.

The endowment is named in honor of Mr. Valente's parents, Bruno and Susie (Galle). They were very active in UNICO National and with Italian heritage and cultural committees. The Valente Italian Collection includes: Dizionario biografico degli italiani (50 vol.), Grande dizionario della lingua italiani (similar to the Oxford English Dictionary), Rerum Italicarum Scriptores (Writers on Italian topics), Iter Italicum (manuscripts of Italian humanists in a recent CD Rom edition), and Italians to America (multi-volume registry of ship passengers from Italy). Also the collection houses 350 volumes of fundamental historical documents published by Istituti Storico Italiano in Rome, including Fonti per la storia del Italia (Sources for the History of Italy) and the Regesti chartarum Italie (Registers of Italian charters). Presently, the library has 25 guides of the Touring Club Italiano series and is in the process of purchasing the complete set of the Instituto geografico militare topographical maps. The collection's strengths are Italian regional history and Italian literature (classical and contemporary in the original language). Dr. Connell estimates that the collection has 20,000 books and is perhaps the third best university collection, after Princeton and Rutgers universities. He is still seeking donations of Italian books and asks people to call 973-275-for more information.

The chapter's next meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 6, 2000.

Future meetings will be held:
May 6, 2000
August 5, 2000
November 5, 2000


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