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In his footsteps: 100th anniversary of founder’s birth

Piazza Venezia, Rome - 6 September 2023


Like John Felice had done many times before, today a wreath was placed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Rome. This time was different: a student and staff member marched the laurel wreath to the monument in commemoration of the JFRC founder John Felice; he would have turned 100 years old today, September 6th.

Students participate in memorial at the Monument to Victor Emmanuel I in the 1960s 

Following in Felice's footsteps at the Victor Emmanuel II National Monument in Piazza Venezia were Rome Start student Poppy Billingsley and Maurizio Moretti, the most senior staff member who began working at the Rome Center in 1986 and was hired by John Felice himself.

In the early years of the Rome Center, John Felice conducted this ceremony which allowed the student community to participate in this tradition which carried much significance for John as it represented a tribute to the young men he served alongside, while working as General Patton’s translator during the WWII North Africa campaign.  The ceremony is also a representation of the values with which John Felice founded the Rome Center. The emphasis he placed on education and tolerance among people of various religious, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds, he hoped would bridge the gap between future generations to avoid the devastation of war. 


Dr Giacchetti, Director Waller and Dr Wingenter after the wreath was placed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for John Felice


Billingsley and Moretti marched the laurel wreath with a ribbon, which read "John Felice 1923-2008, Rest in Peace", to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They were followed by Director Todd Waller, Dr. Stefano Giacchetti, Interim Associate Dean if Academic Affairs and Dr. Anne Wingenter, Assistant Professor of History and Women’s Studies. The Rome Center was granted permission by the Italian Department of Defense to reenact one of John’s favorite ceremonies and one which the highest offices of the Italian State pay homage to the shrine in memory of the fallen during wartime.


Group photo of those who knew John Felice at the commemoration for his 100th birthday


In addition to the 70 students in attendance on the steps of the monument were many current and former staff, faculty as well as alums who knew John Felice: Andrea Stornelli, Dr Flaminio Di Biagi, Dr Sander Evers, Carla Mollica, Fausto Fecchio, Michael Brouse (Class of '68–'69), Cristina Cavalieri (Class of 2007).

The ceremony also memorialized Felice’s dedication to educating American students to become global citizens. John Felice passed away in 2008 at the age of 84. A few months before he died, John presented a handwritten letter to then Director Emilio Iodice, asking that it be read to our students. It currently is framed in the JFRC reception area for all those who enter to see.

My Dear Students,
Even though I don’t know you, you are all in my heart. I pray for you constantly that the Good Lord will guide you in this experience you are having at the JFRC. Do your very best to see and study the treasures that surround you. Don’t waste your time and money on the insignificant. You will be richer in mind and spirit when you return home and you will be able to share your experiences with your family, friends and others you meet in life.
I wish that I am with you, but my failing health does not allow me to come. Please say a prayer for me and remember you are all in my heart and prayers,
Sincerely yours,
John Felice

Students and staff who attended the ceremony celebrating John Felice's 100th birthday