A Modern Day Renaissance Man
In a narrow hallway between the quiet study room and the Writing Center on the fourth floor of Jenks Library, a few sleepy offices overlook the quad. In one of these, Dr. Damon DiMauro, professor in the Department of Languages and Linguistics, prepares for his unique French and Italian classes and writes articles on Renaissance literature and other subjects.
Dr. DiMauro came to Gordon in fall of 2001, which makes this year, as he calls it, his “fiesta de quinceañero.” He describes his life journey somewhat comically, saying, “I grew up in Fairfield County, in the penumbra of the City That Never Sleeps. After time in a tony boarding school, I matriculated at Tulane University in New Orleans, where I sopped up an education as thick and rich as Louisiana gumbo, with further schooling in Paris and at UW-Madison. I then spent nine bone-chilling years professing foreign language at a state university in Minnesota.” He has good reasons for his change to Gordon: “Gordon is better than anything Lake Wobegon had to offer, for here all the students are strong, all the colleagues are good-looking, and all the administrators make life interesting.”
Those who have studied languages with Dr. DiMauro love him. This may be because, as he puts it, he has “had Italian reverberating in my ears since I was a bambino. I acquired French the old-fashioned way—I learned it!” Because he knew a second language early on, and learned another later “the old fashioned way,” Dr. DiMauro understands both types of student. His language teaching methods are unique in that he uses nicknames, props, movies, music and poetry, among many other methods. “I guess I believe in the smorgasbord approach to foreign-language methodology,” he says .
Dr. DiMauro is known around campus for giving his students humorous nicknames. “In giving students nicknames,” he says, “you give them a little personality and they stand out and it makes them special. Years later, I don’t always remember the person’s real name, but I remember the nickname. I’ve rarely found students who didn’t like a nickname; they usually take it in good fun.”
Nicknames make his classes memorable for the students as well. Megan Hammes ’19—a.k.a. Mademoiselle Jambon—is taking his Beginner French class this fall. “I like the nicknames—even if I didn’t realize mine meant ‘Miss Ham’ until two weeks after I got it, Megan says. “It made me feel appreciated—like part of this underlying comedic class community. It brings us closer . . . the Turk, Miss Ham, S.O.S. . . . thanks to the wonderful Professeur DiMauro himself, we have each become part of one magnifique famille française.”
An interesting fact about Dr. DiMauro that even his students may not know is that, as he puts it, he’s “a card-carrying turophile and wannabe oenophile, and an evangelist for both.” Indeed, for Gordon’s online column Faith + Ideas, Dr. DiMauro wrote an article entitled “On Acquired Tastes, Or The Virtues of French Cheese.” Although it was written in fall of 2011, people still refer to it. As for the importance of gourmet cuisine, DiMauro states, “It must be in the Good Book somewhere: gastronomy is next to godliness.”
Dr. DiMauro has also published articles on French Renaissance literature in journals in the U.S. and abroad, and occasionally write on other topics. As for hobbies, he has more than a passing interest in local history and, particularly, in early-period homes of New England.
A true Renaissance man himself, he takes one class per semester at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, just up the road from Gordon. He has also taught Theological French there on occasion. He says his “ultimate goal, upon retirement, rather than thumb twiddling, is to pastor a Waldensian church in either France or Italy.”
His influence at Gordon has carried down through his family. Anyone who has taken one of Dr. DiMauro’s classes has probably heard him talk about his two sons and their history at Gordon. His elder son, Gabriel ’10, completed a triple major in history, English and linguistics; however, linguistics did not yet exist as a major so he created it through the Kenneth L. Pike Honors program. Dr. DiMauro says, “Indeed, much of the [current] major was modeled on his program of study.” Gabriel is now an administrator at an International Baccalaureate school in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France. Dr. DiMauro’s younger son, Nate ’14, created a comical rap song called “Ladies Love It” for Gordon’s annual Golden Goose talent show competition hosted by the Campus Events Council. He teaches English and French at a boarding school in Connecticut.
When asked what the future might hold, Dr. DiMauro responded, “If I knew, I’d be a stockbroker.” One thing that is for sure is that he is one of Gordon’s best-loved and most fascinating professors. His style may be unique, but the students have spoken and the judgment has been made: Dr. DiMauro est un très bon professeur.