Italian by Choice, Professor Honored at Heritage Ball

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Renaissance Scholar William J. Connell to be Honored at the New Jersey Heritage Ball

Although Prof. William J. Connell of Seton Hall University is not of Italian descent, he is truly passionate about Italian history and culture and perhaps he can rightfully be considered “Italian by adoption.” It is not surprising that he is the Honoree of the Italian community at the 2006 New Jersey Heritage Festival Ball, which will occur on Sunday, April 23, 2006, at 4 pm at Iberia Restaurant in Newark (New Jersey).

The Heritage Festival Ball grew out of a series of meetings of the leaders of the New Jersey Ethnic Communities who were organizing the annual Ethnic Heritage Festival at the PNC Bank/Garden State Arts Center in Holmdel (NJ) in 1971. A mosaic of many nations, the Heritage Festival is a rare occasion of intercultural exchange in a peaceful and joyous way. Many participants wear clothing traditional to their heritage, while holding banners saying “Welcome” in the appropriate languages. At the conclusion of the parade, the voices of the assembly join in singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” “New Jersey is unique in its rich ethnic diversity and cultural heritage, having served as the gateway for many groups of immigrants coming to this country to find freedom and opportunity,” wrote Governor Codey about the Heritage Ball. “Our multicultural residents are an important part of the State of New Jersey and continue to make important contribution to the social, cultural, and economic fabric of the Garden State,” he added.

Beside Italians, other ethnic groups represented are: Colombian, Egyptian, Indian, Irish, Polish, Portuguese, Puerto Rico, Spain, and Vietnamese.

“I am delighted to represent New Jersey’s Italians at this joyous and important occasion,” said Connell. “I have devoted all of my life to the study of Italian history and culture. It probably goes back to the grandmothers, the “nonne,” of my Italian American friends when I was a little boy. They would give me an extra cookie if I said a word in Italian.”

Dr. William J. Connell (b. New York, 1958), Professor of History, holds the Joseph M. and Geraldine C. La Motta Chair in Italian Studies at Seton Hall University, where he directs the Charles and Joan Alberto Italian Studies Institute. He received his B.A. summa cum laude from Yale University, and his Ph.D. in Italian History from the University of California at Berkeley. He has been a Fulbright Scholar to Italy, a Giannini Italian-American Scholar, a Fellow at the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence, and a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He is Secretary of the Journal of the History of Ideas, and a member of the editorial advisory board of Renaissance Quarterly. He is also a life member of the American Historical Association, the American Catholic Historical Association, the American Italian Historical Association, the American Association for Italian Studies and the Medieval Academy of America.

From 2002 to 2005 he served as a commissioner on the New Jersey Italian American Heritage Commission and as Co-Chair of the New Jersey Institute for Italian and Italian American Heritage Studies. In recent years he has lectured at the University of Florence, the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, and the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. He has published numerous books and articles on Italian history, including a new translation of Machiavelli’s Prince. Recently he wrote the article “Italians” for the Encyclopedia of New Jersey. He was executive producer of the documentary “Anti-Italianism: Discrimination and Defamation in the History of Italian Americans.” This past winter he spearheaded a successful campaign to overturn a Library of Congress decision that would have resulted in a $15 per book surcharge on libraries that purchase and catalogue Italian books. In 2005 the leading Italian newspaper, the Corriere della sera, called Dr. Connell “one of the most illustrious American scholars of the Italian Renaissance.” He lives with his wife, Nikki, and his daughters, Zoe and Livia, in Clinton, New Jersey.

For additional information about the event please contact Committeee and Ball Chairman, Mr. Anselmo Millan at (201) 271 4365, or Ms. Anna Cerene at (973) 661 1081. Tickets are sold at $65 each. Reservations a must.


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Daniela Puglielli
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