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$100,000 For Graziadio Center

Published: July 1, 2014

CSULB’s George L. Graziadio Center for Italian Studies recently received $100,000 in scholarship endowments to support the program’s new Master of Arts degree.

The first of two $50,000 gifts came from businessman Mario Giannini who set up a scholarship fund in 2012 named for his daughters, the Kyera and Nicole Giannini Scholarship Endowment. The second $50,000 gift was made by CSULB alumnus Mark Cangiano (B.A. Political Science, ’79) in the name of his late wife Sandy Salemi Cangiano (Credential, College of Education, ’83) and is specifically earmarked for graduate students.

George L. Graziadio Chair of Italian Studies’ Clorinda Donato applauded the generous donations as well as the Academic Senate’s approval of the new Master of Arts degree for Italian Studies due to begin this fall with an enrollment of 15.

“We’re all very excited in Italian Studies about the new degree,” said Donato, who joined the Department of Romance/German/Russian Languages and Literatures in 1988. “The goal of this Master of Arts degree is to provide professional-level coursework in the field of Italian Studies. Students want M.A. degrees and CSULB is the place to come.”

The center is committed to offering outstanding programs in Italian language, literature and culture to prepare students for careers in the global arena where strong skills in Italian Studies are an asset for professional success. George and Reva Graziadio brought The Italian Chair Campaign at CSULB to fruition in 1997 with a naming gift and founded The George L. Graziadio Center for Italian Studies in 1998.

Donato believes the new graduate degree benefits both the department and the College of Liberal Arts through the Graziadio Center. “This center makes it possible to do things for both students and the college that might not be possible otherwise,” she explained. “The center brings to campus experts who create knowledge.

“The Graziadio Center has become the voice for Italian Studies on the West Coast,” she added. “The goal of the center is to find ways to work with the community and build bridges for the students.”

Donato pointed out that the $50,000 Mario Giannini donation will join $50,000 already in the Kyera and Nichole Giannini Scholarship Endowment. “That $100,000 will be used to support undergraduate and graduates alike,” Donato explained. “The endowment will produce desperately needed scholarship funds for our graduate students, most of whom work while completing their graduate degrees. Over time, we’ve been building up these scholarship endowments to improve the quality of students’ lives. They are my number one fundraising priority.”

Donato noted that the Cangiano donation will be recognized in the Graziadio Center with a plaque in the name of Cangiano’s late wife Sandy. “It is nice that this is the way Mark Cangiano has chosen to honor the memory of his wife,” she said. “It is something that lives. What better way of remembering some’s life and legacy than to help others achieve their educational goals? I think it’s very powerful.

Mario Giannini on Guitar.
Mario Giannini on Guitar. The Graziadio Center Rocks!

“Everyone is pleasantly surprised by the number of applicants to the master’s program. That is really strong showing for the first year,” she added, noting that the interdisciplinary master’s degree that attracts students from history, art history and comparative literature as well as Italian Studies. “The enrollment represents an interesting cross-section of people. There are students who just graduated and there are students who are returning after other careers. A higher and higher percentage of the B.A. population are seeking master’s degrees. The M.A. is the new B.A.”

Donato feels that the pair of $50,000 gifts represent a ringing endorsement for the Graziadio Center.

“This center was created to be a beacon for Italian Studies at CSULB,” she said. “What these endowments say to me is that the center is succeeding in being that beacon. I credit the strength of the students coming into the program. The Italian-American community is very proud that a graduate program in Italian is being created. That is especially true for the older generation with their memories of discrimination. This is everything Mr. Graziadio wanted for the center.”

Donato sees a bright future for the Graziadio Center.

“I see more attention to the development of scholarship programs,” she said. “They are the key to making it possible for students to pursue their education when they don’t have the money. As education gets more and more expensive, the most deserving and gifted students are often cut out. The most common obstacle to their completion is funding. I also want to see the Graziadio Center continue its outreach with events and lectures such as the Antonioni conference and film festival held in the fall of 2013 and organized by our Enrico Vettore. In the fall of 2014, I look forward to November when we join the English Department’s Stephen Cooper to observe the 75th anniversary of John Fante’s seminal Los Angeles novel Ask the Dust. One of the best things about my job is the chance to work with really innovative and creative people, from the students, to the faculty, to the donors, to community members. That is the cherry on the cake.”

–Richard Manly