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SMC professor honored for aiding study abroad in Italy

Justin Tardiff | Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Saint Mary’s College Rome Program Founder and Director Portia Anne Prebys received a Doctorate in Letters from John Cabot University in Rome, Italy on May 16, 2003. The award was presented to Prebys at John Cabot’s graduation ceremony held at the American Academy of Rome in recognition of her lifelong commitment to the growth and development of international education in Italy.

Saint Mary’s Chair of Modern Languages and Italian Professor Dr. Nancy L. D’Antuono said that the degree was a “…well-deserved recognition. [Prebys] has worked indefatigably for many international programs in Italy, and yet is totally devoted to the Saint Mary’s Rome Program.”

The Saint Mary’s Rome Program, one of the oldest permanent study abroad programs in Italy, began in 1970 after Prebys was contacted by the College and asked to establish it. Prebys, a South Bend native, has lived in Italy since she graduated from Saint Mary’s in 1966 after falling in love with the country while studying there the summer after her junior year of college.

Prebys served as a founding member and is currently President of and the Rome Program’s representative for the Association of American College and University Programs in Italy (AACUPI). The Italy-based AACUPI is an organization that facilitates, represents and maintains over 90 American and Canadian university and college-level abroad programs in Italy. AACUPI programs account for approximately 15,000 of the North American students who study in Italy each year.

Prebys’ dedication to fostering international study in Italy has made the Saint Mary’s Rome Program one of the most academically respected study abroad programs in Italy.

Saint Mary’s Counselor of the Rome Program Peter Checca, who has worked with Prebys for 27 years said, “What makes the Rome Program special is [Prebys’] dedication, loyalty and organizational skills.”

Additionally, D’Antuono said that any Saint Mary’s faculty who visits or teaches in Rome comments on Prebys’ extreme generosity and hospitality.

Upon reception of the award, Prebys said, “I was very honored to receive the degree, and, of course, very pleased to be honored in such a way. I have dedicated my life to international education and exchange and was thrilled to have this fact recognized.”

Prebys has received several honors and awards for her work in international study, including a 1994 President’s medal from Saint Mary’s presented at the College’s Sesquicentennial Convocation. She is also an active member of several volunteer organizations in Italy dedicated to the betterment of American study abroad programs.