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Michael DeMichele, Ph.D. ’63: A Scranton Legacy

Michael DeMichele, Ph.D. ’63: A Scranton Legacy
Michael DeMichele, Ph.D. ’63 in St. Thomas next to a painting gifted by his former student James Ruane ’71 of the Duke of Wellington, a copy of the original by painter Thomas Lawrence. Photos in article, TOP TO BOTTOM: DeMichele teaches a history course; DeMichele, then-chair of the Hoban Lecture, with, from left: Rev. J.A. Panuska, S.J., then-University president, and former U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig, Hoban lecturer; Together with his colleagues, DeMichele (front row, second from right) led one of the first travel courses to London.

One alumnus turned Scranton professor, has had a career of firsts and gained countless fans along the way.

In 51 years, 30 as chair of the History and Political Science Departments, Michael DeMichele, Ph.D. ’63 taught more than 12,000 students, hired the department’s first four female faculty members, added 23 new courses and two new undergraduate degree programs, founded the four-year BA/MA graduate history program, earned dozens of awards for teaching, service and leadership — many the first of their kind — and instituted the first travel course at Scranton. This beloved professor emeritus has had a career of firsts.

“How powerful it is to have a history professor become a legacy, a part of The University of Scranton’s history,” said Dr. DeMichele’s daughter, Jackie Kloss, Ph.D. ’92, at his retirement dinner in the spring of 2018.

Scranton Family

DeMichele has been married to Rosemary (Yantorn) DeMichele of Scranton for 55 years, and their three children all graduated from Scranton (in addition to Jackie Kloss, Michael A. DeMichele, M.D. ’87 and Christine Consiglio, Esq. ’89). But long before DeMichele’s children matriculated, they were roaming the hallways of St. Thomas. When Kloss was just 5 years old, her mom would often ask her to run into her dad’s office to fetch him for dinner.

“The echo and laughter of his voice would resonate down St. Thomas,” she said, “as he would typically be advising a student or kibitzing in the hallways with Frank, Jack, Will, Bob and Ray.”

They may not have known it then, but colleagues Frank Homer, Ph.D. ’64, the late John L. Earl III, Ph.D., Willis Conover, Ed.D., the late Robert Hueston, Ph.D., and the late Raymond Champagne Jr., Ph.D., would become lifelong friends.

From the halls of St. Thomas at Scranton to the banks of the River Thames in London, DeMichele influenced thousands of Scranton students. Upon his retirement, he received hundreds of letters from his former students, most of which call him a mentor; nearly all detail the various ways he helped shape their lives and careers. The letters fill a very thick binder.

“It’s the historian in me,” he said, after handing over the binder, plus three others documenting his years at Scranton.

The First Firsts

DeMichele was born in New York City and spent the early part of his childhood in Long Island. His family moved to Scranton when he was 7 years old. He went to St. Mary’s High School in South Scranton where he was an All-Scholastic basketball player.

Attending The University of Scranton was the obvious choice, as he could commute on foot. When DeMichele arrived his freshman year, he already showed promise in history and politics, having won the history medal from the Chamber of Commerce in high school. At Scranton, he became active in student government, eventually was elected vice president of his senior class and, in 1960, alongside the late Michael Loyack ’63, he founded the Royals Historical Society, a student history club that still exists today.

After a few years away to get his Ph.D. in history at Penn State University, DeMichele returned to his alma mater in 1967, this time to teach.

“I interviewed with Father (Joseph) Rock, who was then the academic vice president. He liked my background, and he hired me on the spot. He said I was on the Jesuit wavelength,” said DeMichele. “For the next 51 years, I taught. I taught night school, day school, graduate school, summer school and intersessions, mostly all of them up until a few years ago.”

Teaching, Mentoring, Traveling

In addition to teaching more than a dozen different courses, from Constitutional and Legal History of England to Rebels, Robbers and Rogues, for 16 years he served as the Royals Historical Society moderator. He initiated the publication of Retrospect, a student scholarly journal composed of articles written by history and political science majors. As faculty moderator, he also led a variety of field trips, including an annual (and then biannual) trip to the United Nations to meet with UN delegates.

“My wife, Rosemary, and I must’ve made 1,000 sandwiches for those trips,” he said, laughing.

He also served as the first chair of the Judge T. Linus Hoban Lecture series, working alongside the Lackawanna Bar Association to bring national and international speakers to the University, including former British Prime Minister Edward Heath, U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist and U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig.

It was DeMichele’s love for and scholarly interest in British history that led him to initiate the first travel course at the University, which served as a model for the many that followed and still run today. For nearly 20 years beginning in 1970, he and several of his colleagues in the History Department took from 50 to 100 students annually on what he liked to call “The London Study Tour.”

His global mindset led to his book about the Italian experience in America, and, at Scranton, the creation of new programs, including a new major in international studies. Thanks to a series of grants, alongside the late Dr. Earl, he created the Ethnic Studies Program, sending students into the community to learn about ethnic and racial minorities and bringing representatives of various ethnic groups into the classroom to share their experiences.

DeMichele’s commitment to international studies and teaching at Scranton has been widely appreciated. He was the first CASE Professor of the Year, earned the first Provost Award for Leadership and Service and was awarded the first and only Campion Medal by the Jesuit Community of Scranton, given to “that individual who has made a significant contribution to the Catholic and Jesuit Character of the University.”

However, one of his personal favorite accolades came from a former student of his, NYU professor Colette Mazzucelli, Ph.D. ’83, who dedicated her speech in the British House of Lords to him this past June. She said: “Speaking in the House of Lords this afternoon allows me to recall the dedication of an exemplary teacher whose love of history affirms the conviction that human beings are ethically responsible as leaders in national governments, international or regional organizations and civil societies to transform the most intractable conflicts.”

He continues to correspond with many of his former students and attends reunions at the University (he’s only missed a couple in 51 years!). Most recently, he has been fundraising for The Michael D. DeMichele, Ph.D. ’63 Scholarship, which will benefit history, political science or international studies students. This, he said, is his “last hurrah” before he begins to write his family history and complete a couple of unfinished scholarly articles.

“I love The University of Scranton, and I love to teach University students, which is why I decided to endow a scholarship at the University,” he said, smiling from behind his desk in St. Thomas where he still teaches one course a semester. “I’ve had a really good career here. Fifty-one years — you wonder where it all went.”

See more photos from DeMichele's tenure, here.

The Scholarship, a.k.a ‘My Last Hurrah’

Endowed by Dr. DeMichele and his family, former students, colleagues, and friends, The Michael D. DeMichele, Ph.D. ’63 Scholarship was established in honor of the history and political science faculty who served alongside Dr. DeMichele during his 51-year tenure. This scholarship is awarded each year to a senior history, political science or international studies major on the basis of scholarship, service and need.

Make a gift at or by calling 570.941.7725.

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