Celebrating Pina Pasquantonio, for 25 extraordinary years of service on the staff of the AAR

In Rome, it’s the start of Trustees’ Week at the Academy. And one of the most important items on the AAR community’s agenda is to celebrate Pina Pasquantonio, who now marks her 25th year on the staff of the American Academy.

PinaPortraitPina Pasquantonio. Credit: James Bodnar FAAR’80

Pina, who holds the title of Assistant Director of Operations, has had a unique and extraordinary effect on the life of every Fellow and Resident since 1984.

That is saying a lot, especially since fully half of the 1700+ individuals who have held a Rome Prize Fellowship or Residency at the AAR since its founding in 1894 have done so in the last quarter century.

When one adds in all the persons other than Rome Prize winners and Residents who comprise the AAR community—the Trustees, Affiliated Fellows, the Visiting Artists and Scholars, and the Fellow Travelers and family members—a conservative guess puts the number of folks at well over 10,000 who have directly depended on Pina Pasquantonio to facilitate their stay, study and work.

“I am committed to keeping the doors to my office open and to being available,” Pina told the SOF News in 2004. That’s a very modest self-description of how she approaches her role.

As a measure of Pina’s enormous impact on the creative life of the AAR, consider the fact that authors in dozens of books over the past couple of decades have acknowledged her help in the most glowing of terms. Reads one typical Foreward: “All of the members of the [AAR] staff are courteous and helpful, and I especially single out the assistant director, Pina Pasquantonio, who can do, and does everything.” A list (inevitably quite incomplete) of authors who have thanked Pina Pasquantonio in print follows at the end of this post.

“Mention her name to anyone who has spent time at the Academy,” says new SOF President Drew Beattie FAAR’95, “and the praise and gratitude, the sense of real friendship, is instantaneous…The institution can brag about an amazing history, a thrillingly beautiful building and grounds for the housing of American scholarship and creativity. But Pina Pasquantonio is a huge part of what is at the heart of the place, the sense of welcoming and facilitating the extraordinary plans of those newly arrived to realize their work in a life-altering environment.”

Indeed, in any number of ways, Pina has defined a generation of life of the Academy—with many more years, one hopes, to come in the ‘Saeculum Pasquantonianum’.

ManshipFrom the fountain in the cortile of the AAR, sculpture by Paul Manship FAAR’12 of infant Hercules strangling a serpent: Youth triumphant over Adversity

Here’s Pina Pasquantonio in her own words, from  interviews with the SOF News published in 2004 and 2008.

“My name certainly betrays my Italian roots,” explained Pina, “but I am the only member of my family who is a first-generation Canadian. While growing up in Canada, my family made it a point of sending my sister and me to Italy on a regular basis to make contact with the rest of our relatives. It only seemed natural to want to live here.”

Once working in Italy, “I sought a position that would allow me to make use of my North American roots as well as to work in an Italian environment. Word reached me that the American Academy in Rome was looking for a secretary for its Director. I had no idea what the American Academy was, but I will never forget the feeling in my stomach when I first walked up the front steps and saw the courtyard and Manship Fountain! I knew I wanted to be part of it.”

Pina, on her position, “I am in charge of day-to-day operations at the Academy, so I am involved in many of its different aspects. This includes assigning spaces to all of the community and supervising the facilities staff (housekeeping, gatekeepers, some office staff, kitchen service). I work closely with the Programs department providing support for events. I concern myself greatly with security and maintain contacts with the security officers at the American embassy and with Italian police forces….I keep track of inventories, purchase supplies, as well as furniture and appliances. I serve as a bridge with Italian authorities in obtaining entry visas and temporary residency permits for Fellows.”

That’s very much a minimalistic description, as anyone who has seen Pina in action can attest. It does not include interceding with intransigent elementary school officials, transporting Fellows to the hospital and translating their described ailments to doctors, and in general making the impossible happen.

But, oh yes, to the formal duties one must add ordering wines for the Academy and matching them with meals, all with an expert’s eye. About four years ago Pina completed her training as a wine sommelier—with ambitions for a proper Academy wine cellar—and has also become a sommelier in olive oil.

PinaWineClassA 2008 fireside wine class with Pina Pasquantonio. Credit: Michael Harris

“My family owns olive trees in Abruzzo and produces olive oil, so I became interested in learning more about that as well…I have lots of ideas about how to improve my olive grove and the oil we produce in order to eventually bottle it and sell it commercially. It’s going to take a few years’ work because you need to invest in improvements and then determine when and how you want to harvest it and how many types of oil you want to produce. So that’s my next project.”

The Academy’s Society of Fellows will honor Pina on her 25th anniversary of service to the AAR with a planting of landscape roses in the Bass Garden.

It seems appropriate to leave the final word on Pina Pasquantonio to Academy Trustee Michael C.J. Putnam, FAAR’64, RAAR’70, former Andrew W. Mellon Professor-in-Charge at the AAR.

“I have known Pina well for most of her years at the Academy—on a daily basis during 1989-91—and I find it hard to speak without hyperbolic praise for all that she has accomplished and for the way she has accomplished it. She is as devoted to the Fellows and their interests as she is tireless and energetic in carrying out her duties. Even in the most trying of circumstances—and I have seen her enmeshed in many a difficult situation—she maintains her poise, her wise judgment, and her humor.”

Congratulations Pina—and the warmest possible thank you.

Here is a roster of twenty-five (more or less) books, from a remarkable range of fields, that thank Pina Pasquantonio for her valued help—inevitably, a very partial list. But you may think of it as the first contribution to a virtual ‘Pina-co-teca‘:

Brian Anthony Curran FAAR’94, The Egyptian renaissance: the afterlife of ancient Egypt in early modern Italy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007)

Bernard Frischer FAAR’76, RAAR’97 (AAR Trustee), Jane W. Crawford FAAR’82, RAAR’97, Monica De Simone, The Horace’s Villa Project, 1997-2003 (Oxford:  Archaeopress, 2006)

Vernon Hyde Minor FAAR’00, The death of the baroque and the rhetoric of good taste (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006)

Lauren Hackworth Petersen FAAR’99, The Freedman in Roman art and art history (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006)

Francesca Santoro L’Hoir FAAR’97, Tragedy, Rhetoric, and the Historiography of Tacitus’ Annales (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2006)

R. A. Scotti, Basilica: the splendor and the scandal: building St. Peter’s (New York: Viking, 2006)

John Caldwell Stubbs, Federico Fellini as auteur: seven aspects of his films (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2006)

Brian Michael Ambroziak, Michael Graves: images of a grand tour (Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press, 2005)

Francine Prose RAAR’06, Caravaggio: painter of miracles (New York: Atlas Books/HarperCollins, 2005)

Harriet Rubin, Dante in love: the world’s greatest poem and how it made history (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005)

Janet Abramowicz, Giorgio Morandi: the art of silence (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004)

Mary Stroll, Calixtus II, 1119-1124: a pope born to rule (Leiden and New York: Brill, 2004)

Olga M. Viso, Ana Mendieta: earth body: sculpture and performance, 1972-1985 (Washington, D.C.: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution; Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 2004)

John R. Clarke RAAR’95, Art in the lives of ordinary Romans: visual representation and non-elite viewers in Italy, 100 B.C.-A.D. 315 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003)

Ronald G. Musto FAAR’79, Apocalypse in Rome: Cola di Rienzo and the politics of the New Age (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003)

Elaine K. Gazda (AAR Trustee), The ancient art of emulation: studies in artistic originality and tradition from the present to classical antiquity. Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, Supplementary Volume I (Ann Arbor:  The University of Michigan Press, 2002)

Louis A. Ruprecht, Was Greek thought religious?: on the use and abuse of Hellenism, from Rome to Romanticism (New York: Palgrave/St. Martin’s Press, 2002)

Katherine Ludwig Jansen FAAR’94, The making of the Magdalen: preaching and popular devotion in the later Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001)

Avrum Stroll, Twentieth-century analytic philosophy (New York, Columbia University Press: 2001)

Anthony Hernandez FAAR’99, Ralph Rugoff, Anthony Hernandez: pictures for Rome (Santa Monica: Smart Art Press, 2000)

Francis X. Blouin, Vatican Archives: an inventory and guide to historical documents of the Holy See (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998)

Avrum Stroll, Sketches of landscapes: philosophy by example (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press 1998)

Diane Atnally Conlin FAAR’91, The artists of the Ara Pacis: the process of Hellenization in Roman relief sculpture (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997)

Mary Stroll, The medieval Abbey of Farfa: target of papal and imperial ambitions (Leiden and New York: Brill, 1997)

Steven Brooke FAAR’91, Bonna D. Wescoat FAAR’92, John L. Varriano, Malcolm Campbell RAAR’98, Views of Rome (New York: Rizzoli, 1995)

Avrum Stroll, Moore and Wittgenstein on certainty (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994)

AARStaff90The Academy’s Rome staff in spring 1990; Pina Pasquantonio at far left of first seated row. From AMACADMY Fall 1990.

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