Tony Sirignano was the kind of teacher who changed his students’ lives.
This is one reason why a group of alums has raised $50,000 to establish the Anthony C. Sirignano Classics Fund.
“Tony was a mentor, an inspiration, and a friend to me,” said Jeremy Radcliffe (’92), who lead the fun-raising effort along with Taylor Chapman (’01), headmaster Mark Desjardins and Annual Fund Manager Kyle Parrish (’01).
“His energy, passion and commitment to treating his students as intellectual peers made him a uniquely beloved teacher at St. John’s,” ” Radcliffe said. “He was a man of principle who encouraged intellectual curiosity and exploration – basically, he represented the best of what St. John’s was all about for me.”
Sirignano, who died in 2010, taught Latin, History and Philosophy for 26 years and retired in 2008 amid health concerns.
Radcliffe and a handful of other former students returned regularly to see Mr. Sirignano for years after graduating.
Chapman also studied under Mr. Sirignano in Latin and Philosophy.
“My personal experience with Mr. Sirignano began with Latin class, when he transformed what could have been a rote-learning class on a ‘dead language’ into a participatory course that developed skills and passions I will use for the rest of my life,” said Chapman.
Parrish is another devoted former student.
“We decided to create the fund as a school. When Mr. Sirignano passed away, there was a great deal of interest among alumni over a dedication of some sort,” Parrish said.
“I was in Mr. Sirignano’s Philosophy class as a senior and he was pretty life changing for me,” added Parrish. “The subject matter is off the beaten path, so being able to support his memory has been a great opportunity.”
According to Parrish, the idea struck at Sirignano’s memorial service, hosted in the VST in December 2010.
Radcliffe and others felt Sirignano should be honored and remembered by the St. John’s family. “What better way to do that than to raise money to help ensure that his passion, Classics, continued to be part of the School’s curriculum?”
Students and teachers of Latin and Ancient Greek stand to benefit from the fund. The money may help them attend Classics-related conferences, classes, or even help pay for the salaries of teachers in the department. There will also be a plaque to Mr. Sirignano.
In addition, Chapman hopes to see a philosophy class like the one taught by Sirignano be kept permanently at the school.
“Of course, we’ll have to grow the fund quite a bit for it to be able to sustain something like a Sirignano Chair in Philosophy,” said Chapman.
“But honestly, I’m just thrilled that Headmaster Desjardins is committed to the Classics and Mr. Sirignano’s legacy.”
The fund is still open for additional contributions to honor Mr. Sirignano’s life and legacy.
Radcliffe said, “Our hope is that through the Fund and the physical reminder of Tony on campus, his spirit can live on and continue to positively affect SJS students for generations to come.”