Alumni who studied abroad celebrate professor, scholarship fund
When Joseph Polisi studied abroad his junior year of UConn in 1968, he and his classmates crossed over by passenger ship and then lived with host families where they were required to speak only French.
He quickly became deeply immersed in the customs, culture, and language of the country and is still fluent all these years later. Best of all, he met his future wife on the trip.
In fact, Polisi ’69 (CLAS), ’12 H, and his wife, Elizabeth Marlowe Polisi ’70 (CLAS), ’76 MA, were so moved by their life-changing experience that, years later, they decided to set up a scholarship to give the same opportunity to future UConn students.
Polisi said studying abroad is invaluable because it gives students a broader perspective of the world.
“It’s especially important today in America where we tend to be inward-looking and parochial,” said Polisi, who is president emeritus and chief China officer for The Juilliard School.
The Polisis named the fund in honor of Gene J. Barberet, a revered professor emeritus of French literature who regularly led the year-long trips to Rouen, France. Barberet recently turned 100 and several alumni who studied abroad with him returned to Storrs to help him celebrate.
One of them was William Robinson ’71 Ph.D., who had helped chaperone Barberet’s study abroad trip as a graduate student in 1969.
“Dr. Barberet was a very good scholar, a gentleman at all times, and a pleasure to work with,” Robinson said. “During a couple of uncertain times in my life, he called me just to give me personal advice.”
Robinson, a Rhode Island Supreme Court justice, has fond memories of his trip, from watching movies in the hull of the S.S. Aurelia during a storm to playing “Leaving on a Jet Plane” when they all left to return to the states. He says studying abroad was one of the best experiences of his life.
“Getting to know another culture and how the people live is just so mind-expanding,” he said. “I think in America we think we’re the best. It’s good to see that other people are happy too and are successful. It’s good for students to be away from parents and all the bureaucracy of the university and be their own boss.”
If you’d like to help UConn students participate in study abroad in France, go to the Dr. Gene J. Barberet Fund.