Santa Clara University Mourns Death of Victor Vari, SCU’s Longest Serving, Beloved Professor
SANTA CLARA, Calif., Aug. 22, 2014—The Santa Clara University community is saddened by the death Wednesday evening of its longest-serving professor, Victor B. Vari, 94, who taught Italian and other languages and literatures to SCU students for 66 years. Dr. Vari passed away at home in San Francisco with Julia, his loving wife of almost 62 years, at his side.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Sept. 2 at 10 a.m. in Santa Clara University’s Mission Church. Condolences may be sent to Mrs. Victor Vari, c/o Dean's Office, College of Arts and Sciences, Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053.
A beloved professor, Dr. Vari and his wife, Julia Botto Vari, for decades were among the most passionate and integral figures in humanities and cultural education at Santa Clara. As a young married couple in the midst of a mostly Jesuit faculty, they soon took their place and relished the role of extended family.
The couple nurtured hundreds of students Dr. Vari taught over the decades, many of whom became lifelong friends. The Varis donated their time in countless ways, including conducting student tours of Europe, chaperoning dances and other activities, and hosting dinners at their home.
Over a lifetime Dr. Vari and his wife have made significant donations to the University out of a deep love for Santa Clara and its students. Their most recent gift was an estimated $8 million bequest from their estate, to fund an endowment for the arts and humanities, to name the arts and sciences building, and to support other projects .
“Victor Vari devoted himself wholeheartedly to Santa Clara University for nearly 70 years,” said President Michael Engh, S.J. “We are deeply saddened by his loss, and we are grateful for the ways in which he has enriched this campus. As heaven’s newest arrival from the Santa Clara family, may he rest in peace.”
Dr. Vari was born in San Francisco in 1920, moved with his family to Italy when he was 1 year old, remaining there until he was 16, when he returned to the Bay Area to attend Galileo High School. He graduated from San Francisco State University and enlisted in the Army, serving as a linguist and military intelligence agent in England and France during World War II before pursuing graduate studies at the Sorbonne in Paris and Lausanne University in Switzerland.
Before Dr. Vari joined SCU in 1946, he also had spent time as an Olympic fencing coach, journalist, actor, radio announcer, and elementary school teacher. He received his master’s degree from Stanford University in 1952 and completed his Ph.D. (summa cum laude) at the University of Madrid in Spain in 1961. He began his academic career as a student teacher at Stanford before joining SCU.
Dr. Vari was the ceremonial bearer of the University’s mace at commencement and other important events from 1969 until his retirement in 2012. He was equally important as a standard-bearer of culture and values, bringing Italian opera to the campus and initiating and teaching at the successful summer program in Assisi that lasted from 1982 to 2004.
“Dr. Vari’s contributions to campus academics, culture, and student life are immeasurable,” said Atom Yee, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “We will celebrate his life and legacy for decades to come.”
Dr. Vari is survived by his wife Julia, cousins Don and GeorgeAnn Proia of Oakland, as well as the Proia family in Italy, and hundreds of former students--the children the Varis never had--who now live around the globe.