In Praise of Lifelong Learning: Alumnus John Caudill
John Caudill was born in Manchester, Kentucky, a small coal town in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. He attended the University of Kentucky in Lexington and received his B.S. and D.M.D. degrees. After a successful career as a dentist in the U.S. Airforce and Public Health Service, he decided to enroll at John Cabot University, where he majored in Italian Studies and minored in Art History and Classical Studies.
What made you decide to come to JCU and major in Italian Studies after you retired?
While serving as a dental officer in the U.S. Air Force, I was stationed at Aviano Air Force Base in Friuli. Unfortunately, due to the Second Gulf War, there was little time to travel and explore Italy and Europe. I always dreamed of returning to Italy upon retirement, and when I discovered there was an American university in Rome that would accept the G.I. Bill scholarship program, I applied to John Cabot. The Italian Studies program offered the perfect opportunity for a total immersion in Italian language and culture!
What did you like most about the Italian Studies major? How did it enrich you?
From my first semester through graduation, I experienced a nurturing atmosphere at JCU which fostered incredible opportunities to further my knowledge and appreciation of Italy. From the outset, professors like Elena Grillo and Valentina Dorato challenged me with the advanced Italian language classes and prepared me for my second year of more rigorous classes with professors Berenice Cocciolillo and Anna Mauceri. Prof. Federica Capoferri was my advisor and mentor, and I completed multiple Italian literature, film, and independent study courses under her inspirational tutelage and guidance. Upon completing the requirements for the major, I felt I had an insider’s understanding of italianità, i.e., what it means to be Italian.
What did you write your undergraduate thesis on?
My undergraduate thesis was “The Role of Music in the Italian Identity,” and it was truly a labor of love. As a musician, I had always known that Italy was an important source of the musical language and annotation that is an intrinsic part of western music, but to study in-depth and research the contributions that Italy made was quite astounding.
What courses at JCU had the most impact on you?
Aside from the Italian Studies classes, my most rewarding courses were Art History and Classical Studies. From my first on-site Ancient Rome and its Monuments, I was hooked on Art History and declared a minor shortly thereafter.
Then I discovered Classical Studies through taking Professor Tom Govero’s Roman Literature Class and decided to pursue a second minor in Classical Studies, which required yet another language skill – learning Latin.
What did you like most about living in Rome?
Everything! Simply experiencing the pulse of daily Roman life was an entirely new experience for me, but perhaps the most important aspect was living in a walkable city where, for the first time in my adult life, I did not have to depend on having my own car. From the early morning caffè at the corner bar to meeting friends for a late afternoon aperitivo, I quickly adopted the Roman love of living life daily. The awe-inspiring vistas in Rome … walking through a picturesque piazza where millions have preceded you, not to mention the possibility of a Roman emperor having strolled down the same pathway, are mind-boggling. However, for me, the most important aspect in making Rome my second home has been the friendships that I have developed over the past few years, many of which are directly related to JCU. I rarely leave my Trastevere apartment without bumping into a friend along the way, which of course requires at a minimum, a short conversation, if not an invitation to grab a bite to eat or something to drink later in the day. Furthermore, the cultural opportunities are limitless with the plethora of museums and exhibits that offer an ever-changing array of stimulating venues.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about going back to college after retiring?
Do it! I always encourage further education to all my friends and family, and they certainly know that I mean every word of it. As a lifelong learner, I am convinced that remaining engaged after retirement is a key element to a fulfilling life. Even if it’s taking just a summer class or auditing a course somewhere, higher education offers many opportunities beyond the classroom setting. Meeting new friends and challenging the mind to continue to learn can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and I am supremely grateful for my “second” university experience at John Cabot University.
What have you been up to lately?
I reside in Hollywood, Florida, when I am not in Rome. From my home base in Rome (I am an Italian resident), I have been traveling throughout Europe, recently hiking the Spanish Camino de Santiago de Compostela – before the pandemic, of course. Lately, I have been studying classical piano with two professors from the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome and with my Barry University professor in Miami as I continue to pursue a lifelong dream of playing Chopin’s nocturnes at a concert level.