Few have loved The University of Montana more than Umberto “Bert” Benedetti. Whether as a student, as a University employee, as a Friend of the Library, or as an active alumnus for over 20 years, Umberto Benedetti has used his formidable skills as a writer and raconteur to advance the success of UM.
The Umberto Benedetti Fund for Italian Studies was established in January 2002 with gifts received from many of his friends and colleagues. Income distributed from the Fund supports the purchase of books on Italian history, language, literature, and music.
Umberto Benedetti was born in Vasto, Abruzzi, Italy in November 1911. He came to the United States as a result of his employment with the Italian shipping line Lloyd Triestino di Navigazione. In 1941 just prior to war being declared between Italy and the United States, Benedetti, along with over 1,000 other Italian citizens who were working aboard Italian vessels docked in U.S. Ports, was detained by U.S. authorities. Benedetti and his compatriots were then sent to Fort Missoula, Montana, where they were interned for the duration of the war, rather than be allowed to return to Italy to fight against the Allies.
When hostilities ended Benedetti decided to remain in the United States. He served in the U.S. Army and became a naturalized U.S. citizen. In 1959 he earned a bachelor’s degree in romance languages from the University of Washington and in 1980 he completed a master’s degree in education from The University of Montana. For a period of time he taught school in San Francisco, California and Miles City, Montana. In 1985 he retired from The University of Montana, where he held a position in Printing Services.
Umberto Benedetti has published several books about his experience as an internee and his life in America. In 1993 the National Library of Poetry honored him with the Editors Choice Award for his poetry and in 1997 he was the recipient of The University of Montana’s Alumni Award. Mr. Benedetti has been a strong supporter of the UM Library, including gifting his personal book collection to the University.
Umberto Benedetti’s passion for languages and literature lives on at the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, thanks to the establishment of a fund in his honor. It is Umberto Benedetti’s hope that future generations of students and scholars will gain knowledge and pleasure from the materials acquired in his honor.
Last Updated: 6 March 2003.