North Central College - Naperville, IL

Dante J. Germanotta

Class Year: 

Wall of Witness Award Winner 2006

The late Dante J. Germanotta '51 (1929-2004) was recognized by North Central College for his life of commitment to social justice causes and higher education during Homecoming Weekend.

His widow, Marybeth "Betsy" Erdman '51, accepted his award.

"The Wall of Witness in Kiekhofer Hall is intended to recognize and honor alumni of the College or the Evangelical Theological Seminary whose lives embody the values — and the commitment to principled leadership, justice and service — which reflect our mission as an institution," said President Harold Wilde. "We felt Dante would be both an ideal first recipient and the person to set the standard for the award."

Those who nominated Germanotta emphasized his extraordinary life experiences and passion for social causes.

"Dante represents the highest example of the kind of dedicated service ... that North Central encouraged and prepared students for in the 1940s and 1950s, which is still instilled in its students today," wrote Leota Buss '51 Ester.

Geramanotta came to North Central College to follow in his father's footsteps and become a minister. After graduation, he married his college sweetheart, Marybeth, and entered Evangelical Theological Seminary. He became a minister in a small rural Wisconsin church but he desired a way to make a difference in the world.

Over his lifetime, he demonstrated a devotion to a variety of social justice causes in Massachusetts, Ohio and the American South. During the Civil Rights Movement, he taught at a predominantly black college in South Carolina, lived in an African-American neighborhood, registered black voters and became active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

In 1968, Germanotta received a doctorate in sociology and social ethics from Boston University and moved to Defiance, Ohio. There he took up the plight of Hispanic migratory workers. A move back to Massachusetts to teach sociology at Curry College allowed him to build upon an earlier interest in prison ministry. He implemented a degree program because he believed inmates could lead useful lives after they were released, and he built an international reputation as an advocate for prisoners' rights.

"I knew he would champion the cause of the disenfranchised and underprivileged, and indeed he did, as the list of his achievements so forcefully reveals," wrote Bill Senn '51.