Decades of Lessons, Dinners and Friendships: Professor Silvio Laccetti
He retired more than a decade ago, but former Stevens professor Silvio Laccetti maintains strong connections both to Castle Point and his many former students.
He still remembers a day, decades ago, when he and one of his students took off on his powerboat from North Bergen, New Jersey. But the engine died, stranding them together in the Harlem River.
Their adventure had a happy ending, with a nighttime rescue by friends from the North Bergen marina and brandies to warm up with later – plus a good story to tell again and again.
Laccetti has many tales like this from his 43 years of teaching at Stevens. As a longtime professor in the former Humanities Department who taught everything from literature to Western civilization, global economics and urban sociology, he formed lasting friendships with many, many of his students.
“I was always close with the students and always tried to do things in and outside of class to make their experience different and exciting,” he recalls.
While he retired in 2008, Laccetti’s “unfinished odyssey in teaching and learning,” as he has described it, continues on in the form of a series of 100 individual dinners with memorable former students with whom he can celebrate and reconnect.
These “Dinners with Silvio” have totaled 99 to date. They represent classes from the 1960s through the early 2000s. He traveled to places like Tulsa, San Antonio, Memphis, Baltimore and Connecticut, as well as all around New Jersey. Former students received his invitations with enthusiasm — and always picked up the tab.
When he joined Stevens in 1965, Laccetti was just a few years older than his students. He was given the freedom to teach courses he felt were important, and developed coursework about juvenile delinquency and drug abuse, among other pressing social topics; his students reliably volunteered for his community programs combating those problems. His classroom was also a place to discuss tricky issues like the Vietnam War, foreign policy and psychology.
Laccetti always enjoyed working with Stevens students.
“They have an excellent work ethic; they’re good people,” he has said. “They don’t want to show off, as you would find in liberal arts classes at big universities.”
Since his retirement, Laccetti has written editorials syndicated in newspapers nationwide. He published a book. And he created a foundation to honor high school salutatorians, athletes and students who promote New Jersey’s Italian American heritage.
Laccetti keeps in close touch with a smaller subset of former students, about a dozen whom he meets with at least once a year.
“You just pick up where you left off and that was surprising, the ease of it,” he says.
“His students were an extension of his family,” remembers Michael Poland ’99.
And they still are.