In 1927, the Italian community in Allegheny County was one of the first approached with the idea of designing a room to honor their heritage in the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, which had just begun construction. Dr. Charles J. Barone of the School of Medicine was elected the first chair of the Men’s Committee. He was succeeded by William Ortale in 1930 and Salvatore Sunseri in 1938. Mrs. Samuel Molinaro chaired the Women’s Committee. Due to the outbreak of the Second World War, artists were unable to travel from Italy to complete their work in the classroom, and so the committee presented the incomplete room to the university in a small ceremony on December 11, 1940. The university was also in need for instruction space to train military cadets, and so the room opened for use without a dedication ceremony or extensive programming. In 1946, the room committee was reactivated with John S. Aldisert as chair. In 1948, painter Giovanni Romagnoli arrived in Pittsburgh to oversee the completion of the room’s decoration, including his painting of Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia.
The Italian Room was formally dedicated on May 14, 1949.
Since 1952, the Italian Room Committee has offered a scholarship for students to study abroad in Italy. Given to both undergraduates and graduates, Italian Nationality Room scholarships have offered Pitt students transformative educational and research opportunities in Italy. It is the mission of the Italian Room Committee to facilitate this important philanthropic work and to ensure the dissemination of Italian language and culture among the University and extended communities. Committee history drawn from the Documenting Pitt Finding Aid for the Italian Room Archive.
For more information on the history of the room and committee, please visit: Guide to the Italian Nationality Room Committee Records, 1927-2001, UA.40.14 | Documenting Pitt.
Suggested yearly membership fees are $10 for current Pitt students and $20 for all other individuals; past awardees' membership fees are waived in recognition of their previous accomplishment. We encourage you to support the Italian Nationality Room at a level with which you are comfortable.
The Italian Room Committee is composed of members of the Italian American and Italian communities of Pittsburgh; former Nationality Room scholarship awardees; and Pitt faculty, staff, and students. Our primary mission is to continue the fundraising work of the Room's initial Committee, formed in 1927, in the service of student scholarships for study and research in Italy. To this end, the Committee is dedicated to a second, but no less important mission: to foster an appreciation of Italian language, culture, and history among the University and regional communities.