Syracuse University Florence: 1959-present
In the spring of 1959, John Clarke Adams, former labor attaché to the US Embassy in Italy and professor at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship, traveled to Italy to work out the logistics of establishing a study abroad program in Florence for Syracuse University. Adams found the perfect location in Piazza Savonarola at the Villa Rossa where only one member of the Gigliucci family, Countess Bona, was still residing. Bona’s father, Mario Gigliucci, architect and original owner of the villa, had passed away in 1937, her mother Edith had died in 1909, and her two older siblings, Nerina and Donatello, were married and living elsewhere. Bona never married and the costs of maintaining the villa were high. Therefore, the Gigliucci siblings were happy to rent out the two main floors of the villa to the University while Bona (or “la Contessa” as she would respectfully be called) moved into the apartment on the top floor.
Between 1959 and 1963, the University established an increasingly positive relationship with the Gigliucci family. Therefore, in 1963, when Nerina, the eldest of the siblings died and the need to sell the Villa became more pressing, Bona and Donatello decided to sell their family home to Syracuse University, with the agreement that Bona, then in her late seventies, would continue to live on the top floor of the villa for as long as she wished. This type of arrangement was possible largely because of the excellent rapport the University and the Gigliucci family had established over the years.
In the early 1960s, Professor John Clarke Adams and his colleague from the Maxwell School, Professor Stephen Koff, alternated every two years as directors, forging a program with an entirely different character from any American study abroad program before it. The primary differences were that students with no previous background in Italian were invited to study in the program, students could study for just one semester rather than a full academic year, and all students were placed in Italian homestays to enhance the cultural experience of studying abroad. In the early years, students lived with two different families during the semester, changing host families halfway through to broaden their exposure to the Italian culture. Furthermore, in addition to offering courses in subjects traditionally associated with the “Grand Tour” such as art history and literature, the Syracuse Semester in Italy offered courses in contemporary Italian politics, as well as European politics and culture.
Syracuse University Florence Timeline
In September 1959, the first group of 30 students travels to Italy by ship and the Syracuse Semester in Italy is launched.
Courses are offered not only in the more traditional study abroad disciplines, such as art history and literature, but also in contemporary Italian politics, history, and European politics and culture.
Fall ’59 students with Prof. Giorgio Spini
From 1959-1963 Syracuse University rents three floors of the Villa Rossa from the Gigliucci family for its classrooms and administrative offices. The youngest family member, Bona Gigliucci, remains at the villa living on the top floor. In February 1963, the University purchases the villa from the family with the agreement that Countess Bona (78 years old at the time) will continue to live on the top floor.
Syracuse University launches the Florence Graduate Program in Renaissance Art (today known as the M.A. in Italian Renaissance Art).
On 4 November 1966, the worst flood in Florence’s history submerges the city in up to 22 feet of water.
From the beginning, Syracuse students are engaged with their host city not only in the classroom but outside as well. At the time of the ’66 flood, students join with other Angeli del Fango (or Mud Angels) who arrive from all over Italy and Europe to take part in the arduous task of cleaning up the city and salvaging its damaged treasures.
The SU studio arts program is created.
The Syracuse University School of Architecture Florence program is created.
Countess Bona Gigliucci dies in February 1982 and Syracuse University becomes sole owner and occupant of the Villa Rossa.
Those who had the honor of knowing “la Contessa,” remember her most fondly for her graceful and jovial presence, her generosity, her admiration and affection for those who came to teach and study in Florence. Throughout the twenty-two years that the Countess shared the villa with Syracuse University, she regularly descended from her apartment to meet the new students and faculty, setting a gracious tone of welcome and elegance that she sustained throughout the school years with occasional teas and meals for directors and faculty. Her cosmopolitan nobility, so characteristic of the Gigliucci, provided an inspiration to the young Americans experiencing Europe and Italy for the first time.
SU purchases the Studio Arts building in Piazzale Donatello 21.
SU purchases the Villino building. Renovation of the garden begins in 2002; renovation of the Villino begins in 2004.
The Architecture program moves to Piazzale Donatello 25.
The library, faculty offices, and media lab move into the Villino. An opening in the wall between the two properties connects the Villa Rossa and Villino as well as the Annex and Dependance.
Syracuse Florence celebrates its 50th anniversary with the participation of Harold A. Vaughn, the first director of University College’s Office for Foreign Study Programs (predecessor to the Division of International Programs Abroad and Syracuse University Abroad). Harold was joined by his wife, former Italian language teacher for the Syracuse Semester in Italy program, Maria Pia Vaughn.
The Sustainable Food and Garden project is launched.
The first STEM cluster is offered, including a course in earth sciences and five courses in engineering mirroring those on the home campus and giving STEM students the opportunity to study abroad.
The Fine Arts Graduate Program celebrates its 50th anniversary.
The food studies cluster is further developed with new courses in sustainable food systems; courses in design are offered for the first time; the field studies program is expanded to include all-school field trips that go beyond the usual tourist destinations.
Syracuse University Florence is chosen as the flagship program to represent SU Abr0ad in the university-wide Middle States Review process. The program’s success contributes to the University’s re-accreditation.
Syracuse Florence Program Directors 1959-present
John Adams and Stephen Koff, Founding Directors (Fall 1959; Spring 1960)
William Fleming (Fall 1960; Spring 1961)
Frederick Jackson (Fall 1962; Spring 1963)
Abraham Veiness (Fall 1963)
John Adams (Spring 1964 through Spring 1965)
Harold Vaughn (Fall 1965; Spring 1966)
Stephen Koff (Fall 1966; Spring 1967)
Ted Denise (Fall 1967; Spring 1968)
Harold Vaughn (Fall 1969; Spring 1970)
Jack Halkett (Fall 1979; Spring 1980)
Thomas McKay (Fall 1980; Spring 1981)
Don Mills (Fall 1981; Spring 1982)
Marshall Segal (Fall 1982; Spring 1983)
Irving Swerdlow (Fall 1983; Spring 1984)
Michael Calo (Fall 1984 through Spring 1987)
Peter Marsh (Fall 1987; Spring 1988)
Lou Roberts (Fall 1988; Spring 1989)
Randall Korman (Fall 1989; Spring 1990)
Michael Good (Fall 1990 through Spring 1996)
Michael Calo (Fall 1996 through Fall 1997)
Alick McLean (Spring 1998 through Spring 2000)
Barbara Deimling (Fall 2000; Spring 2001)
Don Cortese, Interim Director (Fall 2001)
Barbara Deimling (Spring 2002 through Fall 2009)
Michael Calo, Interim Director (Spring 2010 through Spring 2011)
Sasha Perugini (Spring 2011 to present)