Salve a Tutti!

First, my thanks to Past President David Giannini for his mentorship while I was his Vice-President during the past two years. His example of calm, organized, wise leadership gave me the confidence that, while I can’t fill his shoes, I can certainly follow in his footsteps to work with the Board and Members to keep the Il Cenacolo boat on course through the turbulent waters of current events to the calm seas beyond.  I would also like to welcome our new Board members: Alex Kugushev (our new VP), Keyvan Tabari, Joseph Baldelli, John Shook, and Marc Pasquini; and thanks to current Board member Eugene Lanzone who has stepped up to become Club Secretary.

An early casualty of the COVID-19 restrictions was our Thursday Speaker luncheon at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club which is shut down temporarily during the crisis. Zoom came to our rescue and without missing a meeting we have held virtual Thursday gatherings with speakers since early May. These meetings are attended by more members than ever were able to be at SFIAC in person, including many far from the Bay area. Also, this technology allowed, for example, renowned author, explorer and professor Dr. Margie Winslow to present from her home in New York a beautifully illustrated story of her geological research in Patagonia. As you can see, Zoom opens opportunities for future speakers from around the United States and beyond! We all of course miss the conviviality of our personal gatherings. But for the duration it will help keep us together in spirit. Traditionally we have taken a summer break from our speaker series during August and the first half of September. Although the in-person speaker lunches are scheduled to resume September 17, this may be too soon for safety. The Board will evaluate this date as the summer passes.  In any case, plan on at least seeing your compatrioti on Zoom.

The September Opera Outing must be postponed until next Spring. This for the obvious reasons of personal safety, but also because cancellation of the San Francisco opera season in its entirety made it unlikely we could schedule singers for a fall event—many performers are spread far and wide to stay employed in their profession. The Christmas Gala is still scheduled for December but will possibly be cancelled for this season as well. These two popular events always required a modest Club subsidy of their costs to maintain their quality and ambiance. Without this expense now, the annual dues this year can be reduced for all categories. Also, when you send in your dues this year, please take a moment to send in any comments to the Board regarding how we can better serve Il Cenacolo.  (Dues request coming soon.)

In these times of isolation from the many cultural and entertainment opportunities, I want to remind you of the classes available through the  Fromm Institute for Lifetime Learning of the University of San Francisco. The Institute offers “non-credit courses with no assignments or grades for adults age 50 and over with no other objective than the love of learning.”  The cost of these courses are modest or free, and I recommend you check out this opportunity.

This year Il Cenacolo initiated our first grants for students interested and engaged in pursuing studies related to Italian arts and culture.  We joined the Italian American Heritage Foundation in San Jose in this effort. IAHF has provided study grants to high school students for many years and has a well-organized program to recruit and select outstanding Bay Area candidates. Il Cenacolo will select from among deserving students, but the administration of this rather complicated endeavor will be handled for us gratis by IAHF. Although, for administrative reasons, these Il Cenacolo grants went to two high school students this year, future Il Cenacolo awards will be for graduate students pursuing studies in Italian language, arts, and culture. One of the $2000 grants was from Il Cenacolo funds; the second $2000 Il Cenacolo grant was made possible by a gift from Board Member Alex Rynecki.

The first grant went to Sara Sandri of Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose. Sara’s parents both emigrated from Italy and she has spent most summers of her life with relatives in Milan and Raldon in Tuscany. Sara will be entering UCLA as a pre-med student this fall. The second grant went to Vittorio Pastore, graduating from Los Gatos High School and off to Virginia Tech to study automotive engineering. His childhood passion for automotive design continued with a summer auto design internship in Italy in 2019. After graduation from Virginia Tech he intends to continue his engineering studies in Italy in the automotive industry. 

During the current turbulence it is natural to focus on family and tribe, while at the same time feeling renewed concern for others in our society demanding attention and equality. Nevertheless, do not forget the extended family of your fellow Cenocolisti. We all can use mutual support during these concerning, troublesome, and distracting times. Please set time aside to join our Thursday Zoom gatherings and keep in touch. You will see faces smiling at you, some of which you have not seen for years—maybe even decades! It helps ease our isolation and just feels good. If Zoom is new for you, please contact me at [email protected] or 707-888-2311 so I can help you join these virtual gatherings. It is pretty easy—a month or so ago I did not know what Zoom was, but now feel sufficiently comfortable with it to give you a hand. Also, use my contact info with any suggestions for Il Cenacolo you would like to discuss personally or be forwarded to the Board for discussion.

A presto,

David Cobb