Professor Philip J. DiNovo of Albany has been retired for nearly two decades, while that hasn’t stopped him from administrating a “second university” that he founded in 1979.
The American Italian Heritage Association and Museum, located at 1227 Central Ave. in Colonie, is the largest Italian American museum in the east. It serves to educate people of all ethnicities about the heritage, contributions and customs of one of the most influential cultures in the world.
While Italian composer Verdi said, “You may have the universe if I may have Italy,” DiNovo might say, “I have Italy, and I want to share it with you.”
“The more you know about Italy, the more you’ll appreciate it,” DiNovo said.
“It’s not just the landscape and food; it’s a way of life,” he continued. “Italians relax and enjoy company, may sip coffee for hours, have their biggest meal in the afternoon and even take a siesta.
“While even Italy is losing some of that, preserving those customs is even harder in the fast-paced society of America. Secularism is changing many of our ways and we have to fight to maintain a life that is conducive to values such as family and faith.”
DiNovo points to the holidays, where kids come back from college or their own homes and prefer to talk into their phones during dinner, instead of speaking to real people.
DiNovo also believes that sustaining Italian heritage reinforces the values of sacrifice that make for compassionate families and cultures, rather than creating the self-centered society that has emerged today.
“The big word that’s missing in our environment today is ‘sacrifice,’” he said. “People are counting the cost, and if the columns don’t add up to benefit themselves, they won’t volunteer.
“You have to pay the price…you have to say, ‘I’m going to do it even if it costs me.’”
While the museum is his passion, the man of many interests has an overriding concern — education. When it comes to seniors and pre-retirees, they would be wise to take notes from the professor.
“Retirees are happier if they give of themselves,” he said. “To be part of something makes you feel better about yourself, makes time go faster and carries the reward of being mentally stimulated.”
From DiNovo’s experience, seniors who volunteer “escape” the prison of isolation. Moreover, serving others can lessen the sorrow experienced by the loss of a loved one.
He recalls thanking someone for his service to AIHA&M, to which the person replied, “No! Thank you for saving me.”
DiNovo is still teaching, and he still means “business.”