Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search results

Fucilla, Joseph Guerin, 1897-1981

 Person

Dates

  • Existence: 1897-1981

Joseph Fucilla was born in Chicago on December 14, 1897, the oldest of seven children born to Giovanni and Maria Carmela (DeMarco) Fucilla. During his career at Northwestern Fucilla traveled to Europe on several occasions, wrote prolifically, and served as editor of Italica, the journal of the American Association of Teachers of Italian, from 1943 to 1968. Not limiting himself to academic pursuits, Fucilla was actively involved in various Italian and Spanish cultural activities. Fucilla retired from NU in 1965 and spent much of the following year gathering material and writing The Teaching of Italian.

In 1900 the Fucilla family moved to Racine, Wisconsin where Fucilla attended parochial and public elementary schools. As a child he learned Italian from his uncle and father. Following elementary school Fucilla was forced to go to work in order to help support his family. A freak industrial accident prompted Fucilla to continue his education at the Racine High School where he studied Latin, German and Spanish. He also enrolled in evening language classes.

In September, 1917, Fucilla enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he added French to his language studies. After a brief hitch in the Army, Fucilla returned to Madison and began studying Portuguese. He was elected Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year. After graduating in June, 1921, Fucilla rejected a teaching offer from the University of Kentucky in favor of one from Iowa State College at Ames where he stayed for two years. In 1922 he obtained an M.A. from Wisconsin.

In the fall of 1923, Fucilla moved to Butler College in Indianapolis. While there he met and married Reba Ann South in Charleston, Illinois, on May 9, 1925. They had two sons, Jay and Van.

Fucilla had taken summer courses at the University of Chicago in 1923-25 in pursuit of a Ph.D. Desiring to complete his doctorate he took a leave from Butler for the 1926-27 academic year and traveled in Spain, France, and Italy to research his dissertation, “Petrarchism in Spain.” His Ph.D. was granted in 1928, and through the effort of an examiner at his orals, Fucilla was offered a position at Northwestern as Assistant Professor of Romance Languages. He became Associate Professor in 1934, and Professor in 1936, a position enjoyed for the next thirty years.

During his career at Northwestern Fucilla traveled to Europe on several occasions, wrote prolifically, and served as editor of Italica, the journal of the American Association of Teachers of Italian, from 1943 to 1968. In 1951-52 Fucilla received a Fulbright grant that enabled another research trip to Europe. Fucilla completed what he called his “most important contribution to scholarship” in 1960: an expanded version of his doctoral dissertation in Spanish. Fucilla also made substantial contributions to the scholarship on D'Annunzio, Tasso, and Dante, as well as Italian language scholarship in general.

Not limiting himself to academic pursuits, Fucilla was actively involved in various Italian and Spanish cultural activities. He was elected to the Accademia Cosentina (1949), the Academia Sevillana de Buenas Letras (1961) and Hispanic Society (1966). He received many honors, among them being created a commendatore by the Italian government in 1968, receiving the Dante Medal in 1968 and being awarded the Petrarch Medal in 1974. The Petrarch Medal was presented to Fucilla in front of the U.S Capitol Building during the World Petrarch Congress.

Fucilla also played an important role in the Committee for a Better Peace with Italy after World War II. He was particularly pleased when his efforts to persuade the United States to issue a postage stamp commemorating the seven hundredth anniversary of Dante's birth met success in 1965. His book, Our Italian Surnames published in 1949, became quite popular.

When Fucilla retired from Northwestern in 1965 he was appointed visiting professor of the University of Wisconsin for the following year. Fucilla spent much of 1965 and 1966 gathering material and writing The Teaching of Italian in the United States under a contract from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Later he taught at the University of Colorado and the University of California. He died in Evanston, Illinois on March 22, 1981 at the age of 83.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Joseph Fucilla (1897-1981) Papers

 Collection
Identifier: 11/3/12/1
Abstract During his career at Northwestern University, Joseph Fucilla traveled to Europe on several occasions, wrote prolifically, and served as editor of Italica, the journal of the American Association of Teachers of Italian, from 1943 to 1968. The Joseph Fucilla Papers include biographical materials, correspondence, research materials, teaching materials, publications, and talks.