We are saddened to announce the passing of our esteemed colleague, Emeritus Professor of Italian Robert Joseph Rodini of Madison, WI, who passed away on May 28, 2023, at the age of 86.
Bob (or Rob) moved to Madison in 1965 to join the Department of French and Italian at the University of Wisconsin where he taught until his retirement in 2000, and during that period, helped turn it into one of the country’s premier Romance language departments. A specialist in the literature of Renaissance Italy, Bob was a popular teacher, skillful administrator, respected editor, and beloved mentor. Born on August 2, 1936, in Albany, CA, Bob lived with his tight-knit Italian family, even while a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. He met his future wife, Eleanor Morgan, while a Fulbright Scholar in Florence (1960-61). After retiring, he spent 20 years as a volunteer at Meriter Hospital, including as president of the Friends of Meriter. A life-long lover of classical music, Bob was a regular at the Madison Symphony and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He was also a fantastic cook, a natural who rarely touched a cookbook, and was famous for the pan pizza he made for his graduate students.
In his long and distinguished career at the UW-Madison, Bob rose rapidly through the ranks and became Full Professor in 1976. He was Chair of the Department of French and Italian (1979-82) and Associate Chair for Italian for many years, as well as serving on a number of key committees (Graduate School Research, Graduate School Fellowships, University Honorary Degrees, Humanities Divisional Committee, University Lectures, Chancellor’s Academic Advisory Council. and Faculty Senate). Bob made a number of enduring contributions to scholarship in the general field of Renaissance literature, among which his important monograph, Antonfrancesco Grazzini: Poet, Dramatist and Novelliere (1970), his valuable reference work, Ludovico Ariosto: An Annotated Bibliography of Criticism (1984), numerous articles on variety of topics, and book reviews. In addition to several grants from the Graduate School Research Committee, he was named a Vilas Associate (1987-89) and was awarded an ACLS fellowship in 1976-77.
Bob was dedicated to his students, undergraduate and graduate, and his courses and seminars on 15th– and 16th-century Italian literature were legendary and led to his directing a number of doctoral dissertations. He initiated two very well-received new courses in English translation: “Dante’s Divine Comedy” and “Images of the Individual in the Italian Renaissance.” On three occasions he directed or taught on UW study-abroad programs in Italy: Bologna (1971-72) and Florence (Villa Boscobello, 1982; Villa Corsi-Salviati, 2000).
Bob also made major contributions to the profession outside the UW. He was Editor of Italica, the quarterly journal of the American Association of Teachers of Italian, for ten years (1984-93) and served on selection panels for the National Endowment for the Humanities, on external review committees for departments at other universities, and in various roles for the Modern Language Association.
Bob is survived by Eleanor, his wife of 60 years; his son, Mark; his daughter, Elizabeth, son-in-law, Charlie Rudin, and two granddaughters, Sofia and Natalie Rudin. Elizabeth and Mark are planning a memorial, which will be held at a future date.
In lieu of flowers, remembrances in support of the Madison Symphony are appreciated.