Campus & Community

Joseph Connors named director of Villa I Tatti

4 min read

Harvard President Neil L. Rudenstine announced today the appointment of Joseph Connors as director of Villa I Tatti, effective in the summer of 2002. Located on the outskirts of Florence, the Villa is Harvard’s international center for advanced study of the Italian Renaissance.

In making the announcement, Rudenstine stated, “I Tatti is one of the world’s leading centers of its kind, and Joseph Connors is ideally suited to direct its work in the years ahead. He is an outstanding scholar, an exceptional teacher, and a person with substantial experience working in Italy. In addition, he and his wife, Françoise, are warm and welcoming people who will bring to I Tatti the grace and devoted care that are part of its spirit.”

Connors has had a distinguished academic career both in the United States and abroad. He currently chairs the department of art history and archaeology at Columbia University. Previously, he served with outstanding success as director of the American Academy in Rome from 1988 to 1992. The recipient of numerous fellowships and scholarly awards, Connors has written extensively on Italian Renaissance and Baroque architecture and related subjects. He recently received the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching at Columbia.

In discussing his appointment, Connors stated: “I Tatti is the foremost center in Europe and America for the study of the Italian Renaissance in all its aspects. But it is also a house, a garden, a library, a photographic archive, a superb art collection, and a set of memories attached to its founder. It is a community of 15 fellows committed to a year of intense research and to the exchange of ideas over lunch and in the libraries and archives of Florence. But it is also a very large family of scholars spread over the globe from Los Angeles to Warsaw who are immensely loyal to the place and who return often. I look forward eagerly to forming many friendships with the new fellows each year, but also to getting to know the larger family of former fellows and making them feel welcome whenever they are able to return.”

Connors will succeed Walter Kaiser upon the latter’s retirement late next spring. Kaiser, who is Francis Lee Higginson Professor of English and professor of comparative literature at Harvard, has served as director of Villa I Tatti since 1988. He is widely credited with having transformed I Tatti into a modern scholarly center, with substantially enhancing its worldwide reputation and influence, and with placing it on a firm financial footing.

Kaiser praised the choice of his successor, observing that “Joe Connors is one of the foremost American scholars of Italian culture. His exemplary scholarship, his broad and deep learning, that charisma which has so notably informed his teaching, his previous experience as director of the American Academy in Rome, and his great warmth and empathetic sense of humanity will enhance and vivify the scholarly community at I Tatti. Under his inspired and compassionate leadership, the future of I Tatti will be very bright indeed.”

Villa I Tatti was bequeathed to Harvard by the famous connoisseur of Italian Renaissance painting, Bernard Berenson (Harvard College Class of 1887), upon his death in 1959. The Villa had been Berenson’s home and scholarly retreat for most of his life. It was his desire to have Harvard use I Tatti, including its extensive library and renowned collection of art, as a center for Italian culture. Since Berenson’s death, Villa I Tatti has been host to nearly 500 fellows and to many visiting scholars. It has sponsored numerous international conferences and symposia, and it publishes a biennial scholarly journal, I Tatti Studies, and a range of important scholarly monographs, as well as the recently established I Tatti Renaissance Library.