Mary Ann Re, director of the Joseph and Elda Coccia Institute for the Italian Experience in America at Montclair State University, had the honor of being conferred the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, Cavaliere, Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana, in a surprise presentation during the Coccia Institute’s Italian Language and Culture Day 2012, which took place on Wednesday, March 28, at the University.
“I was very moved and honored to have my work validated and appreciated by the highest level of government,” said Re, who holds a PhD in sociology from St. John’s University.
The decoration from the Italian government was jointly presented by Andrea Barbaria, consul of Italy in Newark, and Natalia Quintavalle, consul general of Italy in New York. Also in attendance was Joseph Sciame, chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian Organizations and vice president of St. John’s University.
The aim of the Order of Merit is to recognize significant achievements for causes related to Italian heritage and culture, and is also an acknowledgement by the Republic of Italy of services rendered by committed Italian Americans.
Re’s late father, Chief Judge Emeritus Edward D. Re of the United States Court of International Trade, was presented with the same award in 1960 that his daughter received last week. He ultimately received all five rankings within the Order of Merit, including the highest rank of Cavaliere di Gran’ Croce.
Italian Language and Culture Day was presented in collaboration with the Italian Teachers Association of New Jersey, and attended by more than 300 students and teachers from ten high schools and two middle schools from around the state. Students performed five-minute skits in Italian based on the theme “A Day in the Life of....”