Remembering Professor Glenn Cuomo
During a staff appreciation event last Friday, Nov. 3, New College of Florida President Donal O’Shea made the following remarks: “Glenn had an acute eye for the absurd, and he could talk at length on some oddity or other, or analyzing patterns of behavior that no one but he would notice,” shortly followed by, “Let’s just take a moment of silence to remember him. He was a superb scholar and a gifted teacher.”
Having begun his tremendous influence with New College back in 1982, Professor of German Literature and Language Glenn R. Cuomo, impacted the lives of many colleagues and countless students throughout his time here. The school’s community has been left in a profound state of reflection after the beloved mentor and overall positive presence passed away recently due to an extremely rare form of cancer on Oct. 25. This November would have marked his 35th anniversary year of being with New College.
“I think a lot of people generally recognized how he would go out of his way to sort of do what he could for students,” Professor of Philosophy and Religion Douglas Langston said. “Even when he was essentially dying, the last two or three months he was still meeting with some individual students about academic issues.”
One of those last minute issues was involved with helping a student create a tutorial based off the classic and monumental piece of German literature Goethe’s Elective Affinities.
Cuomo’s multifaceted contributions to New College involve a decade of accreditation efforts between 2006 and 2016, serving as chair for the Division of Humanities twice, as well as being the Campus Fulbright Program Advisor from 1995 until his death. He was a driving force in the current statistics New College holds regarding the amount of Fulbright scholars the institution has produced in relation to other schools. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program allows for recipients to obtain grants in order to travel to participating foreign countries and complete individualized study/research projects. New College is known for its exceptionally high frequency of student recipients for the award even given the small student body size.
“Glenn had a keen sense of what it took to land a Fulbright, especially in Germany, and he pretty much put students on a prescribed path in the application process and held them to it. He devoted great attention to detail and took pride in being thorough in his advising our candidates for Fulbrights,” Professor of Humanities Gordon Michalson wrote in an e-mail interview.
Cuomo’s detail orientedness and knack for the evaluation process landed 35 recipients–an average of one for Germany every year he was here–out of the 85 the school has garnered overall since 2001. However, his far reaching efforts didn’t just help the German program.
“When our first Chinese Fulbright TA arrived on campus in fall 2008, together with a German TA, Glenn went out of his way to help the two TAs settle in and blend into the local community. We have been welcoming a new TA each year ever since. The Chinese Fulbright TA has become such an integral part of the Chinese program that we cannot thank Glenn enough for his initiatives and his support,” Associate Professor of Chinese Language and Culture Jing Zhang wrote in an e-mail interview.
Having been a part of the school’s community for so long allowed Cuomo the ability to share his vast knowledge of the in’s and out’s of not only New College, but Sarasota at large with any newcomer to the on campus family of staff.
“He was my faculty mentor when I arrived 22 years ago, and was generous with his time and his advice, helping me to learn the ropes at the College and to find my way in Sarasota,” Professor of French Language and Literature Amy Reid wrote in an e-mail interview.
“Glenn was my mentor when I first joined New College in 2007. He offered enormous help guiding me through the many New College practices and settling down in Sarasota. When my parents visited here from China for the first time, he and Claudia [Cuomo’s wife] took my family to Selby Garden. My parents still talk about them with a lot of fond memories,” Professor Zhang wrote in an e-mail interview.
Some of the most popular courses developed and taught by Cuomo included “Mann, Kafka, Schnitzler, & Musil and Crisis of Identity in Early 20th Century Central Europe,” “The Theater of Bertolt Brecht,” “Introduction to Film Studies: Weimar Cinema,” and, “The Age of Goethe”. Being most well-versed with the World War II time period, Cuomo was fascinated with the Third Reich in general.
“He was pivotal in enabling me to write my thesis, ‘Psychodynamic Perspectives on German National Socialism,’ and contributed more to the enrichment of my academic experience at New College than any other single faculty member,” alum David Miller (‘15), who completed a double Area of Concentration (AOC) in German Language and Literature and Psychology, wrote in an interview via Facebook. “Professor Cuomo’s courses (especially his “Mann, Kafka, Schnitzler, & Musil and Crisis of Identity in Early 20th Century Central Europe” course) were far more intellectually stimulating to me than my required psychology courses.”
“His ability to engage students in conversation, to have them discover essential characteristics of the author’s poetics is something that he did very well. I was trying to learn that from him actually,” Associate Professor of Russian Amy Reid said. “We are only beginning to realize how much we’ve lost.”