History of the Pirandello Lyceum

by Dr. Filippo Cordaro

The Pirandello Lyceum emerged from the desire of many people and the determination of a few. Its purpose: to fill the void in the 1980’s impending in the vast Italian-American community of Massachusetts, anxious to expand its cultural heritage within its own frontiers and beyond. Dr. Philip Cordaro, university professor, journalist, writer, and founder of the previously constituted Dante Alighieri Society of Massachusetts in Cambridge wished to create an institution capable of awakening the interest of art, literature and science lovers and of obtaining the merited recognition and admiration for those Italians and Americans that had contributed in the past and continue to contribute in the present day to expand the horizons of knowledge.

Chairman of The Board, Rosario M. Cascio

The new institute came into light in 1985, the year which commemorated the 50th anniversary of Luigi Pirandello’s death

Luigi Pirandello, the famous writer of plays, novels and short stories and Nobel Prize winner for literature. The intention was to remember his philosophy and works and also to look back on other noteworthy Italian authors and important events dating back to ancient times and leading up to the present day.

The initial structure of the Lyceum was made up of six people, full of enthusiasm who shared ideas and goals and discussed and approved the social by-law that still governs the institution today. They were: Philip Cordaro who was elected President; the entrepreneur Hon. Frank Cardullo, First Vice President; the medical physician and philanthropist Charles Brusch, Second Vice President; Dr. Anthony Abbruzzese and Prof. Orazio Buttafuoco, Secretary and Treasurer, respectively. Beside having discussed among themselves, they also made their first financial contribution which amounted to $3,000. Only a few weeks later, the Members of the Pirandello Lyceum Institute of Italian-American studies had multiplied. The Social By-Law was accepted and the President and the other officers confirmed. Among the initial members who very soon became excellent collaborators (some of them forming part of the Board of Governors) we must remember the Hon. judges Joseph Ferrino, Mario Umana and Francis X. Morrisey; the school superintendent Steve Maio, the industrialist Coronel Ernest Montiglio, Professor Nicolae Iliescu of Harvard University; Vincent Cioffari and Reinhold Scuman, both of Boston University and Flora Bassanese of the University of Massachusetts.

The solemn inauguration was held in the State House in the presence of Governor Michael Dukakis, followed by a reception in which the state authorities and a vast public took part. On that occasion some dignitaries and visitors from Sicily also appeared. And it was in this inauguration that, for the first time in America and in Italy, two important regions wished to celebrate the fact that they had been proclaimed twin regions by the Governor of Massachusetts and the President of the region of Sicily.

The academic program that was drawn up consisted of various symposiums, with expert dissertations of very well-known American, Italian and French scholars, that took place in Harvard University. The monthly meetings of the Lyceum were dedicated to lectures, debates, and presentations of Pirandello’s plays, all these being held in Boston University and, at times, also in public libraries and in other universities of New England.

On the specific day in which the first symposium, Attualitá di Pirandello, took place, the Federal Government ordered the post offices of the city of Boston to replace the traditional round embossed stamp with another special one that read “LUIGI PIRANDELLO STATION BOSTON MA. APRIL 16, 1986”.

The symposium on Pirandello was followed by others on Leopardi and D’Annunzio and one on the American Constitution which was particularly meaningful. The latter one irrefutably revealed, through the documented studies of noted scholars, the significant contribution of Italian writers who, from Machiavelli to Beccaria, played and important part in transforming the American Constitution into a unique model of democracy.

A Pirandello Lyceum Press was constituted and many works were published: the papers of various symposiums, studies on Guglielmo Marconi, Filippo Mazzei and many pamphlets on historical figures and literary works.

In Massachusetts and in other New England states with particularly dense Italian-American populations, there are many people who had first contributed to creating well-being and prestige in their native countries and then in the countries where they work. Most of the time, these people were humble and worked silently and it is for these people that every year the Lyceum organizes a banquet in which their works are presented and awarded with a commemorative plaque.

In the first four years of its activity the Lyceum received the support and patronage of various entities and figures: the Italian Ministries of Public Instruction, the Italian Embassy of Washington, D.C., the Consulate General of Boston, the Institute of the Italian Risorgimiento of Rome, the Institute of the Italian Encyclopedia Treccani of Rome, the New England Historical Association, the Commission for the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution and partial financial contributions from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Council of the Humanities, the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy and from private citizens.

The Pirandello Lyceum has been declared a non-profit corporation under the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and is tax exempted by the Federal Government.