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Donato Receives Pair Of Honors

Published: November 1, 2012

George L. Graziadio Chair of Italian Studies Clorinda Donato, a member of the university since 1988, recently received a double salute for career excellence.

Donato received the Education Award from the Western Foundation of the Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA) during the foundation’s 10th Humanitarian and Leadership Gala on Sept. 22 in Santa Ana and, in addition, was invited to become a 2012 Corresponding Member in the Accademia Roveretana degli Agiati, established in Italy in 1750.

Donato was pleased to accept the award and pointed out that the Western Foundation of OSIA honors and celebrates individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary achievement.

“That was a very exciting award for me because I have worked with a number of Italian-American organizations for 30 years,” she said. “If it had not been for community involvement with the university, there would not have been an Italian program now. What is even more exciting is how the Italian program is thriving. It’s just doing really, really well.”

The success of the George L. Graziadio Center for Italian Studies represents to Donato a partnership between the university and the surrounding community. “For me, the message about getting these awards is the success of both the university and the community. Through their philanthropy, organizations like OSIA have proven their commitment to improving education. This demonstrates that a study of language and culture ought to be part of every education. I’m very proud of the fact that OSIA recognizes through this award the role of philanthropy in higher education,” she said.

The Academy of the Agiati acquired in 1987 a new legal status which enabled it to offer liaison activities between the various branches of scientific research, coordination of cultural events and management of its library. It is one of the foremost academies that predate Italian unification in the 1860s.

“Just as they were in the 18th century, they are purveyors of culture,” Donato explained about the Agiati. “They work with local institutions and run conferences. They publish journals and monographs. They focus on the 18th century when they were founded. I’ve been invited there to speak three times over five years and I’m pretty proud of that because their focus is right in the middle of what I do. This invitation to become a member of the academy represents recognition by my closest peers. These are the people who read what I write and hear what I say.”

Earning the support of organizations like OSIA and the Academy of the Agiati hasn’t been easy. “I can remember plenty of reluctance when organizations were asked to support a state university,” she recalled. “I had to eat a lot of sausage sandwiches to talk my way past that reluctance to support. It took many years of explaining our mission to arrive at this day. To me, the fact I am receiving this award symbolizes the success of our supporters’ philanthropy as much as it represents any success of mine.”

Donato Receives the Education Award
Pictured (l-r) are Vince Ferragamo; Roy Vanoni, CEO Western Foundation, Grand Lodge of California; Clorinda Donato; Commendatore Frank J. De Santis; and CSULB College of Liberal Arts Dean David Wallace.

Donato’s academic interests include 18th- and 19th-century literature, gender studies and the history of compilations of encyclopedic knowledge. She has published more than 50 articles and three edited collections. In 2013, University of Toronto Press will publish a fourth co-edited volume, Jesuit Accounts of the Colonial Americas—Textualities, Intellectual Disputes, Intercultural Transfers.

Donato, along with her Romance, German, Russian Languages and Literatures’ colleagues Claire Martin and Markus Muller, earned CSULB a National Endowment for Humanities $100,000 grant for their work in “Italian and French for Spanish Speakers.” This grant gives CSULB the necessary funds to implement new, innovative courses based on the intercomprehension method that gives students with knowledge of one romance language the ability to learn and comprehend another romance language at an accelerated pace. Thanks to the efforts of Donato, Martin and Muller, San Pedro High School has expanded its Italian and French courses to include French and Italian for Spanish speakers as well. The collaborative project was recently featured on Pasadena City College’s radio station KPCC and California public radio KQED by renowned journalist Adolfo Guzman-Lopez.

Donato’s numerous awards and recognitions include the CSULB Distinguished Faculty Scholarly Achievement Award in 1999, the Prix De Felice from the University of Lausanne in 2000 and the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies Innovation in Teaching Award in 2008.

Receiving both recognitions in one year is especially exciting for Donato because she feels it recognizes the many different hats she wears at the university, from classroom instruction to department administration to community outreach and scholarship. “I feel a responsibility to represent the university in all my activities,” she said. “For me, this has been a great year.”