Educator influenced students, peers for 66 years
THE SANTA CLARA
September 25, 2014
The longest serving faculty member in Santa Clara history and major contributor to the university passed away this summer at the age of 94.
Victor Vari, a former Italian professor who taught at Santa Clara from 1946 to 2012, died in his San Francisco home this August.
Vari helped create the Casa Italiana Residence Hall and contributed $8 million to the College of Arts and Sciences this year to create an endowment fund for the arts and to finance other projects.
He also brought Italian opera to Santa Clara and conducted summer study abroad trips to Assisi, Italy for over 20 years. Vari was fluent in Spanish, French and Italian, all of which he taught during his time at Santa Clara.
Former students describe Vari as an engaging professor who was passionate about Italian language and culture. They said Vari noted how a wide range of things in today’s society, such as certain inventions and English words, can be derived from Italy and the Italian language.
Santa Clara alumnus Cristina Figone said Vari made her feel much more connected to her Italian heritage.
“You would walk into his classroom and he made you love the Italian language and culture, he appealed to all levels,” Figone said. “He was the most generous, loving, smart, refined, funny person you would ever meet.”
His former students also said they kept in touch with Vari years after graduating from Santa Clara. Alumnus Matt Morone, who had a friendship with Vari for 15 years, said Vari “completely changed” his life for the better.
“He’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime people that you feel truly blessed to be in their life and have them impact yours,” Morone said.
Alumnus Diana Marchetti Barrett said Vari always “had ways of making things happen” for his students, which ranged from helping them get into his classes to finding a way to cover the cost of a student’s study abroad trip to Assisi.
“He was a very loving, caring person, totally dedicated to his students,” said Julia Vari, who was married to Vari for 61 years. “It was always a personal challenge to make sure that they did well.”
GeorgeAnn Hemingway-Proia, wife of Vari’s first cousin Don Proia, said Vari was always upbeat and happy, and was rarely upset.
She said Vari taught her and her husband Italian and that they enjoyed many great meals with Vari over the years.
Vari was born in San Francisco and his family moved to Italy when he was a child, where he lived until he was 16 years old.
He received his undergraduate degree from the University of San Francisco, and his graduate degrees from Stanford University and the University of Madrid in Spain.
During World War II, Vari worked in the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA. Vari also worked as a professional fencer, a radio broadcaster and a journalist, among other professions, before becoming a professor at Santa Clara.
Vari is survived by his wife, his cousin Don Proia of Oakland and the Proia family in Italy.
Contact Sophie Mattson at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.