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Bidding Farewell to a Capital Guy

TC held a memorial service in March for Vince Del Bagno
TC held a memorial service in March for Vince Del Bagno

At a special memorial service held for Vincent Del Bagno this past March, two truths about TC’s late Director of Capital Projects emerged as self-evident:

He loved Teachers College, down to every last little-known architectural and historical detail; and Teachers College loved him, a fact attested to by a collection of friends and admirers by turns eloquent, funny and sad, who seemed as varied as the contents of Del Bagno’s famously messy office.

“He was Director of Capital Projects, but no title could capture his outsized talents,” said TC President Susan Fuhrman. “Vince could take you on an architectural tour and make the walls talk. He could make a stairwell seem as fascinating as the cosmos itself.” Fuhrman called Del Bagno “a charismatic schmoozer” who was both “the guardian of TC’s treasures and a TC treasure himself,” and who “gave fabled places like the Gottesman Libraries and Milbank Chapel a new lease on life.”  

Harvey Spector, Vice President of Finance and Administration, described a recent meeting at which Fuhrman and her leadership team captivated an audience with their vision for a capital campaign that would include a major upgrade to the physical plant.

“I wondered how we’d reached that point,” Spector said. “Roll back the tape three years and you’d see Vince in all the frames, talking to faculty members about how a classroom should function or berating a consultant for not getting it quite right. And then, Spector said, there was the “shock and awe” tour – a walk-through of places in the College most in need of an overhaul, led with special flair by Del Bagno.

“This was a candid guy whose hand prints are on every aspect of our plans for renovation,” Spector said. “We should all be proud of how he acted and affected our lives. He made an impact that will go deep into this century.”

Lucy Calkins, Robinson Professor of Children’s Literature, said that as she walks through TC “moments happen where I’m brought to remember Vince.

“Some people have mothers or grandmothers who cook for you – and they’re saying, ‘I see you and I care for you, I know what you do,’” said Calkins, the founding director of the TC Reading and Writing Project. “I felt Vince was building for me.”

Calkins recalled Del Bagno’s attention to detail in overseeing construction of the Project’s current offices, and how he once took her in a taxi to a museum to look at rugs because he knew she was looking for a rug for her living room.   

“All I wanted was a rug, but he told me about the dye, the chemical composition – there wasn’t a subject he wasn’t an expert in,” she said.

Suniya Luthar, Professor of Psychology and Education, said she probably saw Del Bagno face to face  all of four times during the years they overlapped at TC. 

“We had an email relationship,” she said. “At a very difficult time for me, he was the one human being who’d write and say, ‘Suniya, how are you, what can I do?’ He’d go on vacations and I’d find a clay peace sign on my desk, and a note saying ‘I thought this would go well in your kitchen.’ That kind of kindness – there’s nothing that compares with it. He’d write lines from Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones – and he had such a profound sense of justice and integrity. He was as willing to stand up for me, a professor at TC, as much as he would for a member of his own staff.”

Dawn Arno, Director of the TC Reading and Math Buddies program, called Del Bagno “good, kind, brilliant unique – the ultimate example of what it means to be a part of a community.

“Within the apparatus of TC, he was a big wheel,” she said. “He was an artist whose work was his art – a truly thoughtful and caring person, a rare and precious find. Vince saw the truth, and his calls were what endeared him to us – he called it as he saw it.”

Chris Adams, also of the TC Reading and Writing Project thanked Del Bagno “for giving me an education about TC when I came here” and recalled that Del Bagno was one of the first to email him after Adams’ son was born.
“It said, ‘Chris, welcome to the land of no sleep.’”

At the end of the ceremony, Suzanne Jablonski, TC’s new Director of Facilities, announced that the first annual Vincent Del Bagno  Memorial Barbecue will be held in June under the joint auspices of the Facilities Office and the TC Reading and Writing Project.

Published Thursday, May. 12, 2011