Over the years, Hobart and William Smith Colleges have boasted numerous Fulbright Scholars — both in the student and faculty bodies — who have been selected for the exclusive national program ratified by President Harry S. Truman in 1946. The program was proposed to the U.S. Congress by Senator J. William Fulbright, an Arkansas Democrat, in the aftermath of World War II to promote a “mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries of the world.”
The Colleges recently checked in with their first Fulbright Scholar, Daniel J. Petrizzi, who was named a Fulbright in 1950 and studied in Paris. The former associate professor of French and Spanish at HWS lives on South Main Street and maintains an active interest in the Colleges.
Here's his story.
A native of Rye, N.Y., Petrizzi attended Middlebury College in Vermont for two years before World War II, when he spent three and a half years in the U.S. Army, including 18 months in the China-Burma-India Theater. Returning to Middlebury in the spring of 1946, he decided to finish his B.A. and pursue his M.A., both of which he completed by 1948.
While at Middlebury, he met Frederick Moore '39, a French professor at HWS, who recommended Petrizzi as his replacement while Moore finished his doctorate Yale. Petrizzi also had an offer to teach in Paris, which he ultimately declined because it could not provide the job stability that the HWS faculty position could.
Petrizzi came to Geneva and taught French and introductory Spanish courses between 1948 and 1950. He applied for a Fulbright Scholarship and, in 1950, was given the award and an opportunity to study in Paris between 1950 and 1951.
After a year of intensive studying, a grueling six-hour written exam and an oral exam (“I took a bar of chocolate so I could withstand it,” Petrizzi recalled, laughing) on the subject of contemporary French literature, he received the Diplôme de Littérature Française Contemporaine, the equivalent of an American master's degree, on June 30, 1951, completing his scholarship.
Petrizzi returned to Middlebury College to acquire the Doctor of Modern Languages degree, a degree unique to Middlebury and different from a Ph.D. in that it prepares teacher-scholars in the history as well as reading and speaking knowledge of two modern foreign languages and a reading knowledge of a third. The requirements include a year of supervised study abroad, which Petrizzi had already fulfilled through his Fulbright. The written and oral portions of the degree's examinations are must be in the “focus” foreign language, as is the dissertation which should be “of substantial length”–Petrizzi said his was approximately 300 pages.
Petrizzi then returned to Hobart and William Smith Colleges, where he remained, until 1968, when he left for Seneca Falls to help establish and teach at Eisenhower College, a national memorial to the 34th president, “which at the time was two buildings and a field of mud,” Petrizzi says. It grew into a small liberal arts school, where he taught and served as the chair of admissions, among other duties. The college acquired by the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1979 and closed in 1982.
While at HWS, Petrizzi was the faculty advisor for the French and Spanish clubs, chaperoned events with his wife, Jennie, and won the annual Hobart-hosted Hole-in-One contest nearly every year. He returned to the Colleges from 1982 to 1985 as a part-time, visiting French professor. “I wasn't ready for retirement yet,” he says.
Currently 87 years old and a professor emeritus at RIT, Petrizzi and his wife have lived on South Main Street in Geneva for more than 50 years, attending Colleges' plays, lectures, concerts and other events. Throughout his time in Geneva, despite the many renovations and changes HWS have undergone, during his stay at the school and after, Petrizzi says, “the constant thing is that the faculty has remained of the highest standard.”