On My Dad

Here’s the obituary I wrote for my dad. I wanted to publish it here to keep alive the memory of the kind of man he was, and what kind of life he led.

Henry Amoroso was born in Quincy, Massachusetts and pursued his career in education for more than 40 years–first as a third and fourth grade teacher, second as a Vista director and volunteer in the U.S. Virgin Islands, then as an Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University. He finished his career as an Associate Professor at the University of Southern Maine.

Professor Amoroso had been with USM since 1982. He pursued his career first and foremost as a teacher. He modeled his educational philosophy after the Socratic view that answers were within the student and the teacher was more a midwife who helped students discover answers on their own. In his own words he once wrote, “students enjoy being treated as intellectuals.”

During his tenure at Vanderbilt, he worked with illiterate prisoners teaching them to read by helping them write their stories in their own voices. His work with prisoners inspired the foundation of Voices, a journal in Canada about adult literacy. He also served as a consultant in developing a Vista program in Africa. At the end of his tenure at Vanderbilt he was voted “Favorite Teacher” by the students at Peabody College for Teachers.

At USM he served the university in various capacities, as member of the Faculty Senate, elected faculty representative on two presidential searches, director of the Core Curriculum, team member of USM’s Accreditation Committee, and several other standing committees. He founded the Casco Bay Partnership for Workplace Education, which provided educational opportunities to immigrant workers at Barber Foods, Hannaford Brothers, and American Tool.

His work with Cuba resulted in the formation of the Maine-Cuba connection. Its mission was to bring a Cuban perspective to U.S. education by taking to Cuba over 20 policy makers, including a former governor. This effort resulted in the creation of joint courses in comparative education and Cuban history and culture between USM and the Pedagogical Institute of Havana.

He developed many other courses at USM including the first course on the Internet, a course that blended art and story together called “Illuminated Autobiography,” and “Poverty in America.”
His scholarship in the fields of literacy and education resulted in numerous journal articles, editorials, text reviews, and professional presentations.

His book Fighting Prosaic Messages about his grandmother’s immigrant experience from Sicily to the U.S. traces her life as well as the lives of three generations of her family grappling with literacy in schools. Wanting to engage the imagination, he incorporated story-telling with scholarship. A critique of education and literacy, it’s been described as “a signature piece.” He worked on it even while fighting Leukemia, and completed it before he passed in 2010.

In addition to his passion for teaching, Henry loved to work with his hands. He took joy in building a beautiful Zen-like garden in his backyard. It was during its completion that he was diagnosed with leukemia. He also loved hiking and camping, especially in the White Mountains, reading, cooking, and spending time with his family. He kept a blog about his experiences with cancer that entertained, provoked thought, and lifted the heart. It was a picture of the way he taught and walked through life.

Professor Amoroso received his Bachelor’s in English from St. Michael’s College, his M.Ed in Elementary Education from Goucher College, and his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The year before he passed, the University of Southern Maine conferred Emeritus status to him for his contributions to the University and community.