BRATTLEBORO — Dummerston residents Beatriz and Alvino Fantini were recently honored for their decades of service to World Learning and School for International Training at a celebration dinner on the SIT campus.
“Tonight we pay tribute to the people who have given so much to our organization over the years – Beatriz and Alvino Fantini – two people who personify the words ‘international education’ and ‘intercultural understanding’,” said SIT President, Dr. Sophia Howlett, at the May 19 presentation.
Between them, the two professors emeritus of SIT have dedicated more than 100 years of service to the Experience, to SIT and to global learning. Recognizing Fantini’s work in preserving and documenting the organizations history, World Learning Board President Lawrence Cooley announced that the Institutional Archive, which is housed on the SIT campus, will be named the Alvino E. Fantini.
The event was one of many planned around the world this year to commemorate the 90th anniversary of The Experiment in International Living, the program that led to the creation of SIT and World Learning. Attending were SIT alumni and the World Learning Board of Trustees, current and former SIT and World Learning Trustees, staff, faculty and family members of some of the organizations founders. State Representative Michelle Bos-Lun, an SIT graduate, was among the guests.
Fantini began his association with SIT and World Learning as a participant in the Experiment program in Mexico in 1954. Nearly 70 years later, he says, he remains in contact with his Mexican host family. “It changed my life,” he said of his study abroad experience. “It changes lives. We hear it again and again. »
Today, Fantini holds a doctorate in linguistics and language education, holds degrees in Latin American studies and anthropology, and has published widely on international education and intercultural learning. He also helped transform the Sandanona estate into the current SIT campus.
At the awards ceremony, he recounted how, when he helped start the archive in 2003, he and a team of volunteers traveled across southern Vermont to collect photographs, documents, publications and d other materials in barns and closets, and even the trunk of a co-worker’s car. . She had used the heavy filing boxes as ballast during snowy Vermont winters. Today, the archives are made up of 30 collections of documents spread over three floors.
Beatriz Céspedes, daughter of a Bolivian diplomat, was born in Italy, lived in Peru, Venezuela and Argentina, and speaks Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. She joined SIT as a Spanish teacher and co-head of Experiment in the 1960s. “I provided the institution’s first foreign accent,” she joked. “Now we have a lot.”
Beatriz and Alvino married in 1966. Over the years, both have served the organization in a myriad of roles, including as staff, faculty, committee leaders, advisors and more.
Beatriz Fantini recalled how she taught Spanish to experimenters, developed materials for African language programs, and taught Spanish to members of the US Coast Guard and Red Cross. “Those are some of the opportunities this organization has given me,” she said.
Yet some of her most rewarding moments as a teacher relate to her returning to the classroom this year alone to help develop and deliver an English language curriculum for Afghan refugees. “Teaching and working with Afghan refugees has been a highlight of my career,” she said. In SIT’s true experiential learning mode, she said the reward didn’t just come from helping refugees learn a new language, but also the opportunity for her to learn more about the culture. and the people of Afghanistan.