my dad was many things to many people. he was a husband, a father, a professor, a gardener, etc. he would at one moment be fixing a lamp with some ferro filato (wire) and duct tape and the next moment he would be writing about the allegory of donna gentile in dante’s divine comedy. he was after all, one of the foremost scholars on dante during his many years at northwestern university.
he not only researched and wrote books and articles on scholarly themes of dante’s works and the philosophy of the middle ages, he was one of those rare professors who was able to bring works of literature to life. he had a way of reaching his students in a way that made him a favorite among them. he brought his passion and his sensibilities to the classroom and he had the ability to enlighten both believers and non-believers with his teaching. it was a god-given gift that he used to the fullest.
i had the chance to meet a number of his students and they would always tell me how great my dad was. what a wonderful experience they had learning about dante and how they never thought that works of poetry from the 13th century could ever have been relevant in today’s world. and yet – my dad was not only able to show dante’s work as relevant, but also how the human condition never really changes and that the fundamental question of morality and ethics was the same then as it is today. he always brought the human aspect into his work.
in fact, there is one story he told me that i will never forget. one day, during his open office hours, one of his students came to see him. he said “professor trovato, if it wasn’t for you i don’t think i would be alive today. it was your class that allowed me to cope with the issues in my troubled life. i was contemplating suicide, but you helped me to overcome my doubts and fears.”
yes, my dad was many things to many people, and to me he was a moral beacon. a guide by which i could look into the darkness and see the light shining bright and continuously pointing in the right direction. today his light shines bright on the horizon. it is there for all of the people he touched throughout his life. it is there for us.
ti vorro’ sempre bene, papa’.
i’ll always love you, dad.