vincenza-scarpaci-accentsThe 2013 Gockel International Symposium is slated for Thursday, Sept. 19  on the campus of Missouri Southern State University.

The Symposium will feature presentations at 9:30 a.m., 1 p.m., and 2:30 p.m. by historian and writer Dr. Vincenza Scarpaci.

The event, moderated by Dr. Paul Teverow, professor of history at Missouri Southern, is free and open to the public.

Dr. Scarpaci will speak at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 10 in Taylor Performing Arts Center on the topic of “Roads Less Traveled: Italian Immigrants in America.”

Between 1880 and 1914, close to four million Italians came to America for work, adventure and opportunity. A large proportion repatriated because they achieved their goal, or rejected the way of life they encountered in their new surroundings. While most immigration studies follow well-trodden paths leading to America’s urban/industrial areas, few examine the roads less traveled. The experience of Italians on the land and Italians in lesser-known locations remained in the shadows. Even so, the role of Italian farmers in raising and distributing vegetables they introduced to the American table represents a significant contribution. In addition, a description of interactions between Italian immigrants and their neighbors, especially the “in-between” role they served in America’s segregated South, adds to the picture.

The prevailing story lines, contained in many family histories, published memoirs, and in popular, mass-produced overviews, tend to focus on the “cinderella” aspect of newcomers who struggle and experience setbacks but eventually achieve a quality of life they enjoy. The immigrant’s failure to adjust, dysfunctional behavior, and family discord often fall through the cracks in most narrative records, leaving us with an incomplete understanding of cultural and family dynamics. Examining these problems unlocks the attic door for second- and third-generation Italian Americans and allows us to appreciate more fully the textured history of immigrant experiences. Considering these issues anew allows us to supplement and correct prevailing story lines.

Quo Vadis? Recent U.S. census figures show increasing numbers of Italian Americans claiming ethnic identity, larger than any other European ethnic group. Being “Italian” is trendy. Today, the continuity of Italians living in suburbia and Sunbelt locations highlights an evolving demographic picture that invites even more questions about their road less traveled.

Dr. Scarpaci will speak at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 19 in Anderson Public Safety Center Auditorium on the topic “American Injustice: The Legacy of Sacco and Vanzetti.”

The lives of two Italian immigrants, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, have inspired the imagination and provoked analysis and debates among the legal, literary, historical, and political communities for over 85 years. These men, dedicated anarchists, were tried, convicted, and executed for the murder of two people during a holdup and payroll robbery at a shoe factory in South Braintree, Massachusetts, on April 15, 1920. During the six years dating from their conviction in 1921 and through a series of appeals to their execution on August 23, 1927, their fate became the focus of intense debates about American justice, the capitalist system and governmental ethics.

Refreshments will be served in the lobby of Anderson Public Safety Center Auditorium between 2:15 and 2:30 p.m.

• Dr. Scarpaci will speak at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19 in Anderson Public Safety Center Auditorium also on “American Injustice: The Legacy of Sacco and Vanzetti.”

This seminal event in U.S. and world history continues to resonate in popular culture, literature, songs, opera, both fine and folk art, the performing arts, and in law school curricula. Many aspects of this famous trial and its aftermath come to life in Peter Miller’s award-winning documentary Sacco and Vanzetti. Dr. Scarpaci will give an introduction before the first half of the 82-minute documentary is shown at 1 p.m.  The second half of the documentary and Dr. Scarpaci’s conclusion will take place during the 2:30 p.m. presentation.

The film will establish a baseline for Scarpaci to provide a broader appreciation of how Sacco and Vanzetti’s story specifically impacted America of the 1920s through the 1950s and continues to serve as a measure in our contemporary world of Homeland Security, Guantanamo Bay, and the expansion of the category of terrorism to encompass tree-sitters and Green Peace advocates as well as freedom fighters.

A Q & A session and comments from Dr. Scarpaci will follow the showing of the film.

Italian American author and historian Vincenza Scarpaci was born in Brooklyn into a lively Sicilian family and enjoyed the usual flavor of a neighborhood where the butcher sliced veal into cutlets that were translucent, the shoemaker salvaged worn shoes, and the baker made braided Sicilian bread resplendent with sesame seeds. After majoring in history at Hofstra University, she discovered in graduate school at Rutgers University that immigration history was a legitimate area of research. With the help of Rudolph Vecoli, a pioneer in the field of Italian American studies, she learned how her family and other immigrants fit into the larger pattern of immigration and gained an appreciation of how each ethnic group met the challenges of becoming American according to their transported culture and values.

Dr. Scarpaci went on to earn a Ph.D. at Rutgers and then taught at Towson State University in Baltimore from 1968-80. She recorded the history of Baltimore’s Little Italy and then after moving to San Francisco discovered an Italian community dominated by northern Italians, and where she co-authored (with A. Baccari and G. Zavattoro) SS Peter and Paul Church 1884-1984: The Chronicles of the Italian Cathedral of the West. She also taught U.S. immigration history at Sonoma State University. Dr. Scarpaci now lives in Eugene, Oregon, where she is intrigued by the phenomenon of how the descendants of Italian immigrants retain a strong identity with their heritage although they live in communities where they constitute a small portion of the population. Currently she is researching the story of the Italian immigrants in Walla Walla, Washington.

Dr. Scarpaci has written three other books: The Journey of the Italians in America (Pelican Publishing, 2008); A Portrait of Italians in America (Scribners, 1982); and Italian Immigrants in Louisiana’s Sugar Parishes: Recruitment, Labor Conditions and Community Relations, 1880-1910 (Arno Press, New York Times, 1980) and published articles on Sacco/Vanzetti, Italians on the land, and Italians in the labor/working class. She was a founding member of the American Italian Historical Association.

About the Symposium . . .

Harry and Berniece Gockel were among the most beloved members of the Missouri Southern family. As a faculty member, Harry Gockel’s career spanned the history of the College itself; he came to Joplin Junior College in 1939. Through the years he was an integral part of the evolution of the institution into a four-year college and he served as the first chair of the new social science division of the College. He retired in 1972 but continued to visit campus, keeping in touch with colleagues and students. Harry taught history, economics and geography courses, challenging his students with high standards and strict discipline. New students might easily have been frightened by him but they soon came to know him as a generous man with a grand sense of humor. He is remembered by alumni as a truly great teacher.Harry Gockel’s teaching of geography was enhanced by his many travels with his wife Berniece, who was a teacher in the elementary grades. Together they traveled all over the world. Almost every summer they were trekking to another continent, including a 58-day world tour in 1964. Berniece was an ardent supporter of the College, and after Harry’s death in 1984 she continued to visit campus and attend College functions. She donated the bricks which form the base of the veteran’s memorial at the campus flagpole. Part of the backyard patio at their Carthage home, the bricks were originally salvaged when the old junior college at Fourth and Byers was razed.

At their deaths they left an estate which provides funds for the College to hold an annual symposium.

Their wish was that “the symposium or conference. . .discuss international affairs, governments and politics, including issues of historical, economic, geo-political, social or current affairs. Authorities in these disciplines shall be invited to the symposium or conference to lecture and discuss these issues with the students, faculty, and people of the region. . . .”

Responsibility for developing the Harry and Berniece Gockel International Symposium was assigned by President Julio León to the Institute of International Studies.

About Harry and Berniece Gockel, let it be remembered that more than bricks and a page in the history book, their true legacy is one of great enthusiasm for learning about and understanding the world, which is now borne out in this symposium which bears their names.