Senatore Renato Turano presented Dominic Candeloro with the Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia at the Festa della Repubblica celebration hosted by Italian Consul General Adriano Monti on June 2 at the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in Chicago. The award was bestowed by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano upon Dominic in honor of his academic and community efforts on behalf of Italian-American studies.
“It is a wonderful honor that I never expected,” Dominic says. “I only wish that my mother and father were still alive to share the pride. The award is similar to the medals that my father earned when he served in the Italian army in World War I, so it’s particularly meaningful.”
Of entirely Italian descent, Dominic was born in Chicago Heights to Ludovico Candeloro, a veteran of the Italian Army in World War I from the frazione Pianibbie Ripitella, Casoli, Chieti, Abruzzo, and Yolanda (Giannetti) Candeloro, who was born in 1909 in Amaseno, Frosinone, Lazio, and emigrated as a 5-year-old with her mother to join her father in Chicago Heights.
Graduating from Bloom Township High school in 1958, Dominic won a full scholarship to Northwestern University. He was the first in his extended family to graduate from college and one of the first Italian Americans in Chicago Heights to receive a Ph.D. In graduate school at the University of Illinois, Dominic served as an assistant to famed Italian American Studies professor Rudolph Vecoli, and was amazed that Vecoli’s research included references to the Amasenesi in Chicago Heights.
While teaching history at Ohio State University Lima Campus, he met and married Carol Cutlip. Returning to Illinois in the mid 1970s, Dominic was appointed to teach Italian-American studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
When Dominic was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for more than $300,000 to document and share the history of Italians in Chicago, it set off a whirlwind of activities for the next three years that included 110 oral history interviews; the collection of thousands of photos, documents, and memorabilia; three national conferences; three exhibitions; and involvement by hundreds of volunteers working out of the university and the Italian Cultural Center to bring the project to fruition. The Italians in Chicago exhibit is now permanently displayed at the Italian Cultural Center.
Dominic has been involved since the 1980s in the American Italian Historical Association, now known as the Italian American Studies Association. That connection led him to a visiting professorship with the Anthropology Department at the University of Rome, an exhibit at the Italian National Archives in Rome, invitations to Italian conferences, and dozens of speaking engagements in all parts of Italy.
Awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in Italy from 1981 to 1982, Dominic has written or edited more than a dozen books and 30 academic articles and reviews. Since 1980, Dominic has organized and promoted hundreds of lectures, films, art exhibits, book presentations and immersion weekends at the Italian Cultural Center, now a part of Casa Italia in Stone Park. In the last few years, Dominic has focused on the Florence Roselli Library and the publication of books by Casa Italia.
Dominic has this to say about his latest project: “If we can get this done, I will die happy!” He’s talking about the campaign to raise $500,000 to be matched by Loyola University to create an endowment to support a professorship of Italian American Studies into perpetuity. More than 95 percent of the money has been raised as of this writing, a testament to the power of a man with a cause to unite a community.
For coverage of the Festa della Repubblica celebration, click here.