By Sherry Fisher
Robert Dombroski, professor emeritus of Italian and comparative literature, died May 10 in Paris, France. He was 63.
Dombroski, who lived in Providence, R.I., began his teaching career at the University of Chicago before joining the UConn faculty in 1971. He retired from the University in 1994, when he was appointed Distinguished Professor of Italian at the College of Staten Island and director of Italian studies at the graduate school of the City University of New York.
"He was a true intellectual," says David Herzberger, head of UConn's Department of Modern and Classical Languages, adding that, while at UConn, Dombroski "formed part of what was probably the strongest and most respected Italian program in the United States."
Dombroski was an internationally renowned scholar who was sought after as a speaker and well known for his contributions in modern Italian literature. He received many awards for his distinguished scholarship.
Dombroski's field of expertise was vast, ranging from Dante to contemporary Italian works. He broke new ground in his inquiry into the ideological roots of Italian literature.
Early in his career at UConn, he founded and directed a Study Abroad program in Florence, Italy. After his retirement from the University, he continued to be active in the department. Earlier this year, he was named honorary president of the American Association of Italian Studies.
Norma Bouchard, assistant professor of Italian, describes Dombroski as "an exemplary scholar, one of the greatest scholars of Italian modernism in the country."
He was also an inspiring teacher and mentor: "He was always extremely encouraging and supportive of younger colleagues," Bouchard says. "His generosity toward his students is quite a legend."
Franco Masciandaro, professor and head of Italian studies at UConn, will remember Dombroski's "generosity of spirit and sense of humor.
"He was so jovial, so open. There was something in Robert that made it easy to feel comfortable," says Masciandaro, whose friendship with Dombroski began when they were graduate students at Harvard.
Dombroski received an undergraduate degree in Italian from Providence College in 1962. He earned a master's degree in Italian from the University of California-Berkeley in 1966, and a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1969.
On completing his undergraduate studies, he was awarded a Fulbright to study at the University of Florence. This first encounter with Italy and its culture had a lasting impact on his academic career, and he remained close to Tuscany and its intellectual life.
He is survived by his wife Lucy McNeece, an associate professor of French and comparative literary and cultural studies at UConn, and two sons, Ian and Stanley Dombroski.