Fantinis_award_SIT.jpg

From left, Alvino Fantini, World Learning Board Chairman Lawrence Cooley, World Learning CEO Carol Jenkins, SIT President Sophia Howlett, and Beatriz Fantini.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.  

BRATTLEBORO — Dummerston residents Beatriz and Alvino Fantini were recently honored for their decades of service to World Learning and School for International Training during a celebratory dinner on the SIT campus.

“Tonight, we honor individuals 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 SIT professors emeriti have dedicated more than 100 years of service to the Experiment, SIT and World Learning. Acknowledging the work Fantini has done to preserve and document the history of the organizations, World Learning Board Chairman Lawrence Cooley announced that the institutional archives, which are housed on the SIT campus, will be named The Alvino E. Fantini Institutional Archives.

The event was one of several 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. It was attended by SIT alumni and the World Learning board of directors, current and former SIT and World Learning administrators, staff, faculty and family members of some of the organizations’ founders. State Rep. Michelle Bos-Lun, a SIT Graduate alumna, was among the guests.

Fantini began his association with SIT and World Learning as an Experiment program participant to Mexico in 1954. Nearly 70 years later, he said, he remains in touch with his Mexican homestay family. “It changed my life,” he said of his study abroad experience. “It changes lives. We hear it over and over again.”

Today, Fantini has a PhD 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.

Support our journalism. Subscribe today. →

At the awards ceremony, he recounted how, when he helped start the archives in 2003, he and a team of volunteers scoured southern Vermont to retrieve photographs, documents, publications and other material from barns and closets, and even the trunk of a colleague’s car. She had been using the heavy file boxes as ballast during Vermont’s snowy winters. Today, the archives are comprised of 30 collections of material across three floors.

Beatriz Céspedes, the daughter of a Bolivian diplomat, was born in Italy, has lived in Peru, Venezuela and Argentina, and speaks Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. She joined SIT as a Spanish teacher and Experiment co-leader in the 1960s. “I provided the first foreign accent to the institution,” she joked. “Now we have many.”

Beatriz and Alvino married in 1966. Over the years, both have served the organization in myriad roles including as staff, faculty, committee leads, advisors and more.

Beatriz Fantini recalled how she taught Spanish to Experimenters, developed material for African language programs and taught Spanish to members of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Red Cross. “These are some of the opportunities this organization has given to me,” she said.

Yet, some of her most rewarding moments as a teacher are connected to her return to the classroom just this year to help develop and deliver an English-language curriculum for Afghan refugees. “To teach and work with the Afghan refugees has been a highlight of my career,” she said. In SIT’s true experiential learning fashion, she said the reward came not just from helping refugees learn a new language, but also the opportunity for her to learn about the culture and the people of Afghanistan.