Cornell in Rome's Anna Rita Flati Retires After 30 Years

Several people standing in a room raising a celebratory glass to cheers

Colleagues and students — both past and present — gathered at Palazzo Santacroce to celebrate Anna Rita Flati's career and to wish her farewell as she prepares to retire from her position as administrative director of Cornell in Rome. photo / Andy Chen (B.Arch. '20)

June 7, 2018

"It is difficult to imagine Cornell in Rome without Anna Rita Flati," remarked long-time colleague and Rome-based lecturer Jeffery Blanchard, who was one of many people to gather in celebration of Flati's career and retirement from her position as the program's administrative director. Approximately 80 people including past and present students and faculty, as well as a number of colleagues from partner institutions, attended the farewell reception at Palazzo Santacroce.

Flati began her work with AAP just over 30 years ago as she welcomed the first group of students and faculty to Rome in 1987. Flati's coworkers agree that her willingness to go above and beyond her official title for the full duration of her tenure has made Cornell in Rome a comforting yet exciting and altogether enriching experience for all involved.

"Anna Rita has been the pillar, or the foundation, or the infrastructure, or the pedestal — choose your own architecture, art, and planning metaphor — sustaining our whole operation," continued Blanchard. "If Rome has felt like a home away from home to many members of our community, this is in large part due to Anna Rita's presence."

Flati has greeted all of the AAP faculty and students who have traveled to Rome to either teach or learn for a semester — and because of her warmth and thoughtfulness, many who have attended the Rome program retain strong and dear memories of their experience there.

"I remember walking into the damp coolness of Palazzo Massimo as if it were yesterday," says Peter Choi (B.Arch. '90), who attended Cornell in Rome in 1988 as a member of the second class to enroll in the program. "As Anna Rita received us and quietly gave us our orientation, it was clear that we had found a new home. Against the craziness of Rome living, Anna Rita's calm presence and soft-spoken tone grounded us for the rest of the semester. Those four months have remained with me in the most powerful way."

Palazzo Massimo was the initial location of the program when former AAP dean William McMinn founded it with the help of late faculty members Colin Rowe and John Shaw, architecture; and Jack Squier, art. Each believed enough in the importance of the lessons of Rome to create a program that would teach architecture, art, and urban planning in the context of the eternal city. Flati has worked with several AAP deans as they have each, to varying degrees, reimagined and expanded Cornell in Rome including moving from Palazzo Massimo to Palazzo Lazzaroni in 1997, and then to the program's current location at Palazzo Santacroce in 2016. Flati has seen the program through these changes and incremental growth, and through the institutional and interpersonal challenges that have accompanied them. Throughout, Flati has remained well-loved and deeply respected by the entire AAP community for her patience, generosity, and dedication.

"Anna Rita did not hold a formal academic title but ask any of the hundreds of Cornell in Rome alumni who taught them the most during their semester in Rome, and the answer will be unanimous," remarked Kent Kleinman, Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of AAP. "For more than three decades, this remarkable colleague guided our students deep into Italian culture, offering the perfect balance of care and independence to allow generations of Cornell students to find their own Rome, and more importantly, to find themselves. She has been a gift to us all."

By Edith Fikes

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