The Department of French and Italian mourns the passing of Professor Emeritus of Italian Edoardo A. Lèbano, an established scholar and beloved teacher of Italian language, literature and culture, and one of the most energetic and impactful advocates of Italian culture in North America of his generation.
A native of Italy (born in Palmanova del Friuli, 1934), Prof. Lèbano graduated from the Liceo Classico “Torquato Tasso” in Salerno and studied law and literature at the universities of Naples and Florence, respectively. He moved to the United States in 1957 and went on to receive his graduate training at the Catholic University of America, where he studied with Rocco Montano and Helmut Hatzfeld and received a M.A. in Italian in 1961 and a Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures in 1966. Prof. Lèbano arrived at IU in the fall of 1971 as an Associate Professor and was promoted to the rank of Professor in 1983. Before joining IU, he taught at the Foreign Services Institute, the University of Virginia, Charlottesville and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Although Prof. Lèbano retired in 2000, having devoted 29 years of his professional life to the Department of French and Italian, he continued to teach one or two courses per year in retirement until 2008. Through the years, he served the department in a variety of capacities: as assistant and interim chair, co-founder and director of the Center for Italian Studies, director of Italian language instruction, director of undergraduate studies and resident director of the IU programs in Bologna and Florence.
Prof. Lèbano’s scholarship focused on three different fields: Renaissance epic and chivalric poetry, with an emphasis on the works of Luigi Pulci; nineteenth century and Modernism; and language instruction. In the first field, he published many articles on Pulci and the scholarship on Pulci, and he curated the first English edition, translated in verse by the Italian American poet Joseph Tusiani, of Pulci’s poem Morgante (Indiana UP, 1998). In the modern field, he published on many authors and genres, but particularly on the Italian Risorgimento as well as on Pirandello. Prof. Lèbano was, in addition, a prolific author of pedagogical essays and works, amongst them, Buongiorno a tutti!, co-authored with Pier Raimondo Baldini, one of the major Italian textbooks in the United States for decades. Prof. Lèbano was also greatly interested in Italian American studies, particularly in historical migratory patterns, and wrote a book on the Italian American community of Clinton, Indiana, titled Life in God’s Country, published in 2016.
Prof. Lèbano’s teaching touched the lives of generations of students and he was indeed loved and esteemed by many of them. His teaching was also recognized at IU by a Trustees Teaching Award and by the Uhrig Award for Excellent Teaching at UW-Milwaukee. Also noteworthy was his graduate mentoring: eleven students wrote their doctoral dissertations under his careful supervision and many of them went on to successful careers at institutions such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Delaware, Loyola University Chicago, and the University of Louisville. Prof. Lèbano brought the same energy and dedication that informed his teaching to the promotion of Italian culture across North America. He taught for many summers at the Middlebury College Italian School, arguably the best full-immersion program in North America, a program for which he served as director from 1987 to 1995. It was under his direction that the Middlebury Italian School acquired the international reach and prestige it still has. He also served the American Association of Teachers of Italian (AATI), first as secretary-treasurer (1980-1983) and later as president (1984-1987).
One of Prof. Lèbano’s major service contributions was his tireless dedication to offer statistical analyses of Italian studies throughout North America; this was not a mere – albeit administratively useful – collection of numbers, but it represented his commitment to understanding the needs of students of Italian, while offering an invaluable tool to all Italian programs. His service and leadership have been recognized by significant accolades including the AATI Distinguished Service Award and the title of Cavaliere dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana bestowed by the President of the Italian Republic.
Prof. Lèbano passed away in Bloomington on November 28, 2020.