Getting to Know Dr. Joseph Rizzi
By RosaLisa Licci
From its inception, in 1977, Dr. Joseph Rizzi has been dedicated to the mission and growth of the Federation of Italian American Organizations which is evident through every project he has been part of including serving as its Secretary. His teaching career has always weaved through his journey with the Federation and as his family grew his profession became his primary focus while working with the Federation in the common goal of assisting the Italian immigrant community of South Brooklyn. His career flourished at New Utrecht High School where he started as a teacher of Italian language, then as coordinator of the largest Italian Bilingual Program in the country, and ultimately as Assistant Principal. His determination and love for education inspired him to enroll in a Doctorate Program in International Educational, earning him the title of Doctor in Education (EdD).
The years in the education system flew by and before he knew it, Dr. Rizzi retired in 2006. As he was approaching this milestone, while visiting with Ms. Nancy Sottile, Executive Director of FIAO, to discuss the future plans for an After-School Program at New Utrecht H.S., he was offered the position of Director of the Beacon Program which the Federation at Seth Low JHS (IS 96). With the ambitious development of the new building called Il Centro, he became the Director of External Affairs of Il Centro. While overseeing the daily developments of the construction phase of Il Centro, he worked closely with city, state, and federal elected officials, private and not for profit agencies, and business leaders to secure funding for Il Centro. Anyone involved with Il Centro can attest that Dr. Rizzi has gone above and beyond his title and call of duty to ensure the continued success of Il Centro by being one of the proud champions of FIAO.
Dr. Rizzi sees a bright future for the Federation and Il Centro. He strives to make this cultural and community center the hub of the rich Italian culture while welcoming the multicultural members of the community to join us in “Preserving and Enriching Community” for decades to come.
Some of the exciting parts of his job include representing FIAO while participating in political or business events, securing funds for the sustainability of Il Centro, and hosting cultural events at Il Centro. But what gives him the most joy, however, is to see the smiles of satisfaction on the faces of colleagues, friends, and people he meets on a daily basis. As stated by Dr. Rizzi, “As in my 33 years spent at New Utrecht HS, the last 14 years have been a labor of love. These years have given me the opportunity to serve the community, which has always been an integral part of my life, and it allowed me to develop and shape the character and the education of the youth as well as assist entire families utilizing my personal experiences. I never consider it a job; it has been a mission that I would live all over again.”
As for the future of Il Centro his hope is best stated in his own words: “I’m sure Il Centro will be a staple in the community for many decades to come and my wish is that it continues to represent the proud Italian American community, the history, art, culture, and contributions to the world in a positive and productive way.” We can all agree with Dr. Rizzi that the future of Il Centro has many positive possibilities especially since it has such dedicated staff continuing to maintain its established goals and aspiring dreams. “E Pluribus Unum” will make us strong, creative, and productive.