JCU Presents John Cabot University - The First 50 Years Book

On June 8, the JCU community came together in the Lemon Tree Courtyard of the Guarini Campus to celebrate the publication of the book John Cabot University – The First 50 Years.

The book’s editorial team is composed of Berenice Cocciolillo, editorial director, Marialaura Grandolfo, author, and Riccardo Pugliese, design coordinator. Divided chronologically by six presidencies, the 210-page illustrated book documents the growth and challenges that accompanied JCU’s transformation from a “fragile bark” into a ship that is sailing strong.

Welcome remarks by President Pavoncello
“This book is about a journey, in keeping with the name John Cabot or Giovanni Caboto, who in 1497 had the courage to set the sails of the Matthew and travel west to reach the east coast of the North American continent. The journey of John Cabot International College, as it was called at its birth, started when a group of enterprising American professors and businesspeople launched the school with the institutional support of Hiram College in Ohio. John Cabot opened its doors on September 19, 1972, to 31 students, 11 more than expected.”

“The journey has not always been easy,” continued President Pavoncello. “Along with campus expansion, student enrollment growth, and increasing successes, we have also had to face numerous challenges, from financial difficulties to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. We are concluding the celebrations of the 50th Anniversary year quite appropriately with this presentation, but we are also getting ready for the next 50 years, with great hopes and a full awareness of our strength and all the wonderful things we have built in the last half-century.”

The making of the book
The moderator of the event was JCU alumna and free-lance journalist Rebecca Anne Proctor, who interviewed the editorial team on the challenges and rewards of putting together the book. Proctor graduated in 2005 with majors in Art History and Humanistic Studies before going on to earn three master’s degrees. The former Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar Art and Harper’s Bazaar Interiors, Rebecca’s writing has been published in numerous media outlets. Her book Art in Saudi Arabia: A New Creativity Economy will be published in Fall 2023.

When asked what sparked the idea of a 50th Anniversary book, Cocciolillo explained that President Pavoncello suggested that the University produce a book about JCU’s first 50 years, through the voices, stories, and perspectives of people from the community, from the founders to the trustees, to faculty, staff, and alumni. “I was asked to be the coordinator of the project because of my experience with publications and institutional communications, but also because I have been here for 30 of JCU’s 50 years!” said Cocciolillo.

“The first chapter of the book, ‘A Fragile Bark,’ comes from the title of a brief history of JCU’s early years written by history professor Brian Williams, ‘A Fragile Bark Launched on a Most Tempestuous Sea.,’” explained Cocciolillo. “Given the fact that JCU is named after the explorer John Cabot and that our motto is Explorando Excello (I excel by exploring), the editorial team decided to give each chapter a nautical title that aims to capture the essence of what happened during each presidency.”

When Proctor asked the team how they managed to bring out the University’s uniqueness in the book, Grandolfo replied, “The importance of Rome as JCU’s campus and the fact there is such an international student body were aspects that emerged organically in the interviews, especially with alumni. Many people said that JCU had an energy that was at once comfortable and challenging in a stimulating sense. There was this idea of feeling at home and a foreigner at the same time.”

Cocciolillo agreed that many of the interviews in the book highlight recurring themes, such as the fact that JCU is a place where the American liberal arts tradition is enriched by the culture and history of Rome, a place that transforms students’ lives.

When asked how the team decided whom to include in the book, Cocciolillo said, “Obviously, this book is not the bible of JCU. With the help of the President, we came up with a list of people who made a noteworthy contribution, told inspiring stories, or provided insights into what makes the University special. Of course, we could have included many more, but the book would have been 1,000 pages long!”

After the presentation, guests were invited to enjoy a reception, which included a wine tasting kindly offered by Casale del Giglio winery, headed by JCU alumnus Antonio Santarelli (Class of 1981).

The editorial team
Berenice Cocciolillo, who joined JCU in 1992, is one of the University’s longest-serving faculty members. In addition to teaching Italian language and translation, she has held various administrative positions at the University and has been Director of Web Communications since 2014. A literary translator, she is one of the founders and organizers of InVerse, JCU’s festival of Italian poetry in translation.

Marialaura Grandolfo, the Coordinator of the Dean’s Office at JCU, earned a B.A. in English Literature from JCU in 2017 and then an M.Litt. in Contemporary Studies from the University of St. Andrews, where she is completing her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature.

Riccardo Pugliese, JCU’s Webmaster, has a laurea in Lettere Moderne from Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and an M.A. in Classics from the University of Maryland. A philosophy aficionado, he recently published Il sentimento paralizzante del possibile – La vertigine della libertà in Kierkegaard e Sartre, which is forthcoming in English as Dizziness of Freedom in Kierkegaard and Sartre from Palgrave.

To request a copy of John Cabot University – The First 50 Years, please write to [email protected]. The book is not for sale but if you like, you can make a donation to JCU.