Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus Aldo Bernardo

Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus Aldo Bernardo

Aldo Bernardo, 91, distinguished service professor emeritus of Italian and comparative literature, died Sunday, Nov. 27. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Brown University and his PhD from Harvard University before joining the faculty at Triple Cities College in 1949. Among the founding faculty of Harpur College, he retired from Binghamton University in 1987.

One of the world’s leading Petrarch and Dante scholars, he co-founded the Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies (CEMERS) in 1966, and served as its director until 1973. A prolific writer, he was the author of more than a dozen books, including four volumes of Petrarch’s letters that he translated from Latin, and the Companion to Dante’s Divine Comedy: A Comprehensive Guide for the Student and General Reader (2006).

In 1990, Bernardo and his wife, Reta, established the Aldo and Reta Bernardo Fund, which supports an annual lecture in medieval literature, courses in medieval languages and literature and an Excellence Award for graduating seniors majoring in Medieval or Early Modern Studies. The 22nd annual Bernardo Lecture was held Nov. 17, with Bernardo in attendance.

A Fulbright scholar and a Guggenheim fellow, Bernardo was also honored with the Order of Merit from the president of Italy for his promotion of Italian literature and culture, a gold medal from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., for organizing a World Petrarch Congress and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Association of Teachers of Italian.

Friend and colleague Sandro Sticca, professor of French and comparative literature, was hired by Bernardo in the mid-1960s. The words Sticca most commonly uses to describe Bernardo are patient, sincere, honest, generous and respected.

“He had a tremendous amount of compassion and love for his students,” Sticca said. “He was an impeccable scholar with a high sense of morality. He was very proud of his heritage, which he lives as a person and a scholar, and I admired him because he pursued knowledge not for the sake of it, but to disseminate it.”

Sticca commended Bernardo for his financial support of CEMERS and noted that Bernardo’s life had been governed by what he could do “for the Center, for this intellectual creature.”

Petrarch was Bernardo’s love from an intellectual point, said Sticca, and Bernardo was vigorous and energetic in his pursuit of knowledge.

“His life could be characterized as a kind of spiritual itinerary to make his own knowledge, but also to give it back,” he said. “He was transfixed with the idea of transmitting knowledge to posterity. He understood that the students of today will become the professors of tomorrow, and he had to nurture them. He was always concerned for his students and always available to them.”

Sticca said Bernardo wasn’t one to take vacations, but loved to play bocce at Laurel Lake, Pa. “He was a true scholar who combined intellectual pursuits with friendship,” he said.

In 1980, Bernardo established the Claudia Bernardo Memorial Award for Excellence in Humanities in memory of his first wife, which is presented annually to two graduating seniors for outstanding work in a humanities discipline. A local Italian American group created the Italian-American Memorial Award in honor of Bernardo, to be presented annually to an undergraduate and a graduate student for outstanding work in Italian studies.

He is survived by his wife, Reta; his children, Donald and Nancy Bernardo, Joanne and Clark Burr, and Adele and William Boyle; seven grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; a brother-in-law and sister-in-law; two nieces and a nephew.

Donations in his memory may be directed to the Aldo and Reta Bernardo Fund at Binghamton University. Checks may be made payable to “BU Foundation Account #20879” and mailed to: Binghamton University Foundation, PO Box 6005, Binghamton, NY 13902-6005 or delivered to the Binghamton University Foundation, AD-208. Indicate “In memory of Aldo Bernardo” in the memo section of the check. Secure, online credit card gifts may be made at http://www.giving.binghamton.edu Select “Other, please specify” from the account drop-down menu, and then type “In memory of Aldo Bernardo, Aldo and Reta Bernardo Fund Acct #20879” in the space provided.