Scholarly group bestows award on Candeloro

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While he was growing up in Chicago Heights during World War II, Dominic Candeloro wasn’t at all proud of his Italian ancestry. His father was a low-paid construction worker who only learned a few words of English. That and the fact that Italy was fighting against the Allies made him ashamed of his roots. The feeling persisted after the war, when the peninsula was in shambles and the country was frequently referred to as “war torn” in the press.

It wasn’t until Candeloro saw Fellini’s film “La Dolce Vita” while he was pursuing his undergraduate degree at Northwestern University that he began to realize there was so much more to Italian life and culture than he had read about in the papers.

Candeloro earned his master’s and Ph.D. in history at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, then did post-graduate work as a research assistant for the renowned Italian-American studies professor, Rudolph Vecoli. The opportunity opened the door to a wide world of Italian-American scholarship that included Vecoli’s doctoral dissertation on Chicago’s Italians before World War I.

Candeloro taught history at the University of Illinois Chicago from 1977-82. While there, he spearheaded a massive oral-history project that evolved into the landmark exhibit “Italians in Chicago: Collections from Three Generations, 1880-1965.” First installed at the Chicago Public Library, the exhibit found a permanent home at the Italian Cultural Center in Stone Park, where Candeloro now serves as librarian.

An internationally renowned authority on the Italian-American experience, Candeloro has published and edited several books and organized countless exhibits and presentations on the topic. Those accomplishments were recently honored by an organization that has been near and dear to his heart for decades.

Last October, Candeloro became the first recipient of the Italian American Studies Association’s Distinguished Service Award.

“Dominic Candeloro has made a real and substantial contribution to the Italian American Studies Association and in the greater Italian American community through publishing, activism, committee work, recruiting, fundraising, public relations and other such significant activity,” IAHA President Courtney J. Ruffner Grieneisen noted at the awards presentation.

Candeloro served as newsletter editor, vice president and president of what was then called the American Italian Historical Association throughout the 1980s. “During this time, he executed major initiatives, led the association through many successful conferences, and while president saw the association reach the highest number of members, 600, in 1986,” Grieneisen noted.

He returned to the organization as executive director from 2000 to 2006, during which time he edited several conference proceedings, set up the H-ITAM internet discussion network and obtained grants to help fund the association, Grieneisen pointed out. In 2015, he donated his AIHA materials to help build our archives.


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Fra Noi produces a magazine and website that serve the Chicago-area Italian-American community. Our magazine offers our readers a monthly feast of news and views, culture and entertainment that keeps our diverse and widely scattered readers in touch with each other and their heritage. Our website offers a dizzying array of information drawn from every corner of the local community.

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