Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History

Sauer, Anne

Branco, Jessica

Bennett, John

Crowley, Zachary


Ciardi, John Anthony, 1916-1986


John Anthony Ciardi (1916-86), A1938, H1960, was a widely recognized critic, etymologist, poet, and translator whose works affected the literary experiences of millions of American children and adults.

Born in Boston's North End, Ciardi spent his youth in Medford, Massachusetts, in a home on South Street, overlooking the Mystic River. He began his college career in the prelaw program at Bates College, Lewiston, Maine, but transferred during his sophomore year. As an undergraduate at Tufts, he began to write under the tutelage of the poet John Holmes. He particpated in few campus activities, mainly writing for Tuftonian, a literary magazine, and acting for Pen, Paint, and Pretzels. With Holmes's urging, Ciardi submitted a collection of his work for consideration of the Hopwood Prize, which had been won the previous year by playwright Arthur Miller. Ciardi won, gaining national attention before he completed college.

After graduating from Tufts in 1938, he attended the University of Michigan, receiving his M.A. in 1939, and served from 1942-45 in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a B-29 gunner in the South Pacific during World War II.He later resumed his career as a writer and teacher of English at Kansas City University, Rutgers, and Harvard.

Choosing to focus his attention solely on his writing, Ciardi gave up teaching in 1961. He has been called "a poet for the 'middlebrow' reader," authoring more than forty books, primarily consisting of poetry for adults and children, including "The Birds of Pompeii" and "How Does a Poem Mean."From 1956-77, Ciardi helped shape the literary tastes of Americans as a critic and poetry editor for Saturday Review. He also penned what is regarded by many critics to be the finest English translation of Dante's Divine Comedy, especially Inferno, which sold more than 3 million copies. Ciardi focused not on following Dante's rhyme scheme, but attempted instead to relay the feeling propelling the original textby using tense modern verse idiom. He also collaborated on "Limericks, Too Gross" and "A Grossery of Limericks" with Isaac Asimov during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Ciardi was also a highly respected etymologist, studying the history of words. Aside from publishing "A Browser's Dictionary," he also spoke weekly on National Public Radio about words and word groupings. At the time of his death, he was working on an etymology book for children. He died at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, New Jersey, on March 30, 1986. With his wife, Judith, Ciardi had three children, Myra, John, A1976, and Benn.

Source: TC, Winter 1986, Spring 1986; EB

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  • The encyclopedia seeks to capture more than 150 years of Tufts' achievements, societal contributions and outstanding alumni and faculty in concise entries. As a source of accurate factual information, the Encyclopedia can be used by anyone interested in the history of Tufts and of the people who have made it the unique institution it is.
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Numeric Entries
Dame, Lorin Low, 1838-1903
Dana, Charles A., 1881-1975
Dana Laboratory, 1963
Daniel Ounjian Prize in Economics,
Davies, Caroline Stodder, 1864-1939
Davies House, 1894
De Florez Prize in Human Engineering, 1964
de Pacheco, Kaye MacKinnon, ca. 1910-ca. 1985
Dean Hall, 1887-1963
Dean, Oliver, 1783-1871
Dearborn, Heman Allen, 1831-1897
Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology, 1893
Department of Anesthesia, 1970
Department of Art and Art History, 1930
Department of Biochemistry, 1893
Department of Chemistry, 1882
Department of Community Health, 1930
Department of Dermatology, 1897
The Department of Economics, 1946
Department of Medicine, 1893
Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology
Department of Neurology, 1893
Department of Neuroscience, 1983
Department of Neurosurgery, 1951
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1893
Department of Ophthamology, 1893
Department of Orthopedic Surgery, 1906
Department of Otolaryngology, 1895
Department of Pathology, 1893
Department of Pediatrics, 1930
Department of Pharmacology, 1915
Department of Physics and Astronomy, 1854
Department of Physiology, 1893
Department of Psychiatry, 1928
Department of Radiation Oncology, 1968
Department of Radiology, 1915
Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, 1955
Department of Surgery, 1893
Department of Urban and Environmental Policy, 1973
Department of Urology, 1910
Dental Health Sciences Building, 1969
Dewick, Cora Alma (Polk), 1875-1977
Dewick/MacPhie Dining Hall, 1959
Dickson Professorship of English and American History, 1913
Dirlam, Arland A., 1905-1979
Dog Cart, 1900
Dolbear, Amos Emerson, 1837-1910
Donald A. Cowdery Memorial Scholarship, 1946
Dr. Benjamin Andrews Professorship of Surgery, 1987
Dr. Philip E. A. Sheridan Prize, 1977
The Drug Bust, 1970
Dudley, Henry Watson, 1831-1906
Dugger, Edward Jr., 1919-75
Durkee, Frank W., 1861-1939
Durkee, Henrietta Noble Brown, 1871-1946
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