In the cozy dining room of his home on the west side of Oswego, Professor Emeritus of History Luciano Iorizzo positions his beloved stand-up bass next to a grandfather clock.
It’s a favorite of his wife of 60 years, Marilee,
and it stands near a print by Professor Emeritus of Art Tom Seawell, “American Album —Missouri.” The memories come flooding back.
“Tom and I started at Oswego together, around 1962,” Iorizzo recalls. And he vividly remembers his first office—in the barracks of Splinter Village, shared with the late Raymond Wedlake, History department and Music Professors Dr. Anthony Crain, Dr. Marilynn Smiley and the late Dr. James Soluri, who got Iorizzo to play bass for “The Fantastiks” and “Once Upon a Mattress” in Oswego’s summer theatre.
But for the founder and first chair of Oswego’s public justice department, the sweetest memories are those of his students. Iorizzo reminisces about Celia Sgroi ’70, who would follow in his footsteps as chair of public justice; Kathy McHale Mantaro ’65 M ’70, who retired as a successful librarian, and Robert Bruce McBride ’69 M ’72, who made a name for himself in the criminal justice field, as well as a host of other students who inspire his pride.
“It’s so nice to see them develop from green freshman to confident senior. That’s what makes it worthwhile—to see young people develop,” he says.
He and Marilee both served as advisers to Greek groups—Alpha Delta Eta and Alpha Sigma Chi, and former sisters still get in touch.
The Korean War veteran earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School. When he joined the Oswego faculty in 1962, history was part of the social sciences department, and Iorizzo taught alongside scholars in economics, sociology, and other disciplines, before history became its own department in 1966. He taught courses in the history of the U. S., New York state and the labor movement. He developed a popular course in immigration history, which led to one on organized crime, and the two topics became the lifelong focus of his scholarly research. One of Iorizzo’s seven books — most focused on immigration, especially that of Italian-Americans — was a life of Al Capone, later published in China and Korea.
Several of his writing credits came during retirement, and his latest, a chapter in the book Immigrant Struggles, Immigrant Gifts, was published earlier this year.
But retirement is not all work and no play for this Renaissance man. An avid golfer, he also enjoys playing his bass in an impromptu jazz band of fellow emeritus faculty members and the New Horizons Band of retirees.
Family is a big focus for the Iorizzos. The walls of their home are adorned with photos of their five children, 12 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren, and the doorjamb into the kitchen bears pencil marks noting their growth.
Besides the books, music and family, Iorizzo’s legacy includes a scholarship in his name founded by a grateful former student. Although he does not choose the recipients, Iorizzo is thrilled to meet them each year, and he is thankful that the fund in his name can help them, just as he was helped as a student. “It’s recognition of their productivity, their excellent performance,” he said. “I hope it is an inspiration to them, and keeps them going.” He also hopes when they graduate and become successful they will be similarly inspired to pass on the help to generations to come, creating their own Oswego legacy.
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