James J. Boitano, PhD
Il Professore, James J. Boitano, PhD

2016 Person of the Year:
James J. Boitano, PhD

Jim was born in Seattle on May 10, 1944, and his younger brother, Don, was born in 1946. His father, William Boitano, was a grocer in Seattle who specialized in fresh fruits and vegetables. He owned the Greenwood Market in the north end of  Seattle for over 40 years; after he left the store, he drove a school bus for children with disabilities for over ten years.

Jim has extensive knowledge of Italian history. Discover the spirited Italian reverence for curiosity through his writing. This has led the Italian people down various paths of discovery and has been expressed in song and on canvas.
Learn about all things Italian in Il Professore Italiano.

William was the oldest son of John and Angelina, who came from Favale di Malvaro, in the Province of Genoa of the Italian region of Liguria in 1913, bringing John’s father and Angelina’s brother with them. The parents of Jim’s mother, Mary Ulacia, (John and Irene) came from Lekeitio, Spain in the Province of Vizcaya in the Basque country. Jim’s dad was born in Seattle in 1913 and his mother was born in Port Blakely, Washington (on Bainbridge Island off the coast of Seattle) in 1916, eventually moving to Seattle in 1923. Both Jim’s parents were raised in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.

Jim grew up in Seattle, working in his family’s grocery store after school hours and during summer vacations, through graduation from college. He always considered this a part of his lifelong learning experience outside the classroom. He attended Seattle University and received his BA degree magna cum laude in the Class of 1966. At Seattle U., he majored in Political Science, with minors in Philosophy, History, and Spanish. While a student there, he met Caroline O’Shaughnessy who was also a member of the Class of 1966.

Jim and Caroline were married on July 29, 1967. They have three daughters: Margaret, Kathleen, and Jeanne. Further additions to the family were a son-in-law, Rick Outhet, and a granddaughter, Jessica Outhet. After graduation from Seattle University, Jim went on to the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, a two-year course of studies, where he received his MA degree in International Studies in 1968. 

Following his graduation from the University of Denver in 1968, Jim began his 38-year professional career as an academic. He first was hired to teach Political Science courses in Scottsbluff, Nebraska at The Hiram Scott College. Jim taught there for two years. In 1970, he came to the San Francisco Bay Area when he was hired by Dominican College (later Dominican University) in San Rafael to create the Department of Political Science and to teach Political Science courses. In 1977 Jim took a three-year leave of absence from Dominican, moving his family to Arlington, Virginia to continue his graduate studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, where he earned his Ph.D. in Political Philosophy. Returning to Dominican in 1980, he continued his career there until his eventual retirement in 2006.

In the 1970s Jim was an active faculty member, teaching courses in the humanities (especially Philosophy, in addition to Political Science courses). He co-authored a grant which awarded funding for four years by the National Endowment for Humanities that created an interdisciplinary humanities experience for students. In addition, Jim also worked on implementing a three-year grant from the Eli Lilly Foundation for faculty development at Dominican. 

Upon returning from his graduate work in 1980, in addition to teaching, Jim was immersed in faculty development work again. A new faculty development grant was awarded by the San Francisco Foundation in its implementation of the Beryl Buck Endowment to Marin County. Jim was appointed Chairman of the committee to implement the three-year grant (which turned out to be the largest faculty development grant ever given to a single institution). From 1981-1984, Jim was also Chairman of the Division of Global Studies, a new administrative structure that combined the various Departments of History, Art History, International Studies, and Political Science to improve interdisciplinary approaches in the various courses of these departments.

In 1995, Jim was appointed the new Dean of Arts and Sciences at Dominican. At the same time, he worked with several faculty colleagues to develop an interdisciplinary MA program in Humanities. Jim headed both this program and the School of Arts and Sciences from 1995-98. His assistant in administering the MA Program was Sue Lombardi, whose husband, Dave, was President of Il Cenacolo at the time. Sue mentioned to Jim that she thought he would be interested in attending one of the lunches and learning about the organization. Jim attended a December, 1996 luncheon as the guest of Dave Lombardi, and joined within a month.

Following his tenure as Dean, Jim developed another program in faculty development that he chaired until he retired from Dominican in 2006. In addition he chaired more standing and ad hoc committees than we have time to enumerate here. He also continued to teach in both the MA Program in Humanities and in the Department of Political Science. In 2006, Jim retired from Dominican and was named Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Humanities, and also Dean Emeritus.

For the first several years of his membership in Il Cenacolo, Jim was far too busy at Dominican to do more than attend luncheons. But in 2006, following retirement, he was elected to the Board of Il Cenacolo, and in 2007, he and David Litwin co-chaired the last opera outing held at Monte Rosso. This term of two years on the Board was followed by a term as Vice-President (2008-10), and then President of Il Cenacolo (2010-12). When he became President in July, 2010, he began a series of monthly articles in the Il Cenacolo Bulletin (titled at first Alla Corrente, then Correnti della Storia, and now La Cultura Italiana) that continues to this day. The articles deal primarily with Italians or Italian-Americans of note, as well as other aspects of Italian culture that capture his attention. He currently also serves on the Strategic Planning Committee of Il Cenacolo. In 2016,  Jim was honored as Il Cenacolo’s Man of the Year.

Over the years, Jim has made several presentations at Thursday luncheons of Il Cenacolo. The topics show his broad interest in Political Philosophy, the Italian Renaissance, and History of Thought. Presentations have included: “Machiavelli’s Mandragola as an Expression of his Political Thought”; “A Look at Machiavelli’s Life, his Political Thought in The Prince, and its Influence”; “Italy in Turmoil: the 16th Century World of Isabella D’Este”; “Thomas Jefferson and Filippo Mazzei: a Friendship Based on a Joint Love of Italy”; and “Francesco Guicciardini:  Renaissance Historian, Realist and Cynic.”

When raising his children, Jim served on the Parish Council, taught CCD and was active whenever there was a need to be filled. Jim’s community involvement includes service on the Board of Marin Symphony for 15 years with two years as President of the Board. He currently sits on the Marin Music Chest Board, and now serves as its President. He maintained his connection to Dominican University after his retirement by serving as Chairman of the Advisory Board to the Dean of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences for four years.