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The Academy Says Farewell to Director Celenza

June 25, 2014
Christopher Celenza speaking in the cortile
Anna and Christopher Celenza
Chris Celenza
Chris Celenza and Ambassador John R. Phillips
Chris Celenza and Peter Brown
Anna and Christopher Celenza
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On Friday evening the AAR community gathered for a splendid barbecue in Bass Garden in honor of Christopher Celenza, FAAR’94. Neither fickle rain from earlier in the week nor Italy’s loss against Costa Rica dampened the spirit of celebrations. After four years of service to the Academy, Chris and his wife Anna Harwell Celenza are returning to the Baltimore-Washington area to resume their professorial appointments at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown universities, respectively. Everyone wishes the Celenzas, who will cross the Atlantic via ocean liner, a “buon viaggio!”

Mid-evening, Drue Heinz Librarian Sebastian Hierl invited guests to contribute to an initiative of the Fellows’ who have established a Christopher S. Celenza Library Fund while Anna H. Celenza presented the Academy with an amusing Director’s portrait for the café wall. Musical entertainment for the evening was a surprise performance by Eric Nathan on trumpet, Ryan Bailey on guitar, Vittorio Montalti on drums and Peter Bognanni singing the lyrics to four classic Frank Sinatra numbers, as an ode to Anna Celenza’s March lecture.

Christopher Celenza has been Academy Director since July 2010, and over the course of a four-year appointment he has opened the doors of the Academy in an unprecedented way, deepening its relationships with Rome’s institutions and people. His commitment to cultivating the role of the Academy as a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary laboratory is exemplified in the increased number of public events and initiatives, and the formation of the Advisors to the American Academy - artists and scholars from the Roman community who help AAR Fellows and participate in AAR events.

With his initiation of the Conversations That Matters series, Director Celenza also fostered discussion of major issues in the public eye that affect society in broad ways inside and outside of academe. Among these were conversations with Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J. on the relationship between “Faith and Science,” (2011) with Alice Waters and Carlo Petrini about the international phenomenon of “Slow Food,” (2013) and most recently a panel with Simon During, Tim Parks, Jed Perl, and Kim Bowes about the “Future of the Arts and Humanities” (2014).

Before coming to Rome, Director Celenza, who holds two doctoral degrees in history from Duke University and in classics from the University of Hamburg, was a founding director of the Charles Singleton Center for the Study of Pre-modern Europe at Johns Hopkins University. He resumes his responsibilities at Hopkins in the fall, where he holds dual appointments as Charles Homer Haskins Professor in the Departments of German and Romance Languages and Literatures and the Department of Classics. Having authored The Lost Italian Renaissance: Humanists, Historians and Latin’s Legacy (2004) and Piety and Pythagoras in Renaissance Florence: The Symbolum Nesianum (2001), Celenza will be completing a new manuscript on Machiavelli for Harvard University Press over the coming year, which is scheduled for publication in the spring of 2015.

As Academy director, Celenza has been the true embodiment of a humanist - focused on people and their ideas, always ready with words of encouragement, and dedicated to the idea of the Academy as an open tent, where ideas are perused and debated by all.