Anthony L. LaRuffa, Anthropologist, Italian-American Studies Expert, and Champion of Adult Learning Programs, Dies

Professor Anthony L. LaRuffa is the author of Monte Carmelo: An Italian-American Community in the Bronx, which was published in 1988.

Anthropology Professor Emeritus Anthony L. LaRuffa died from cancer on September 20. He retired in 2012 after 51 years of service to Lehman College and Hunter College in the Bronx.

As the thirteenth child of Italian immigrants, Dr. LaRuffa was one of two siblings to attend college, earning his undergraduate degree at The City College of New York, and his master’s and Ph.D. from Columbia University. He is recognized for his significant contributions to teaching, research, writing, and service to the College and broader community.

Dr. LaRuffa’s areas of academic specialization were broad and deep: they included religion, ethnicity, social stratification, and evolutionary biology. In addition to research papers and presentations, he authored two books: San Cipriano: Life in a Puerto Rican Community, which focused on Pentecostalism and was based on his early fieldwork, and Monte Carmelo: An Italian-American Community in the Bronx, which showcases his study of Italian-Americans.

A highlight of his academic career, as well as a true passion, was collaborating with his colleagues in developing, implementing, and teaching in a unique interdisciplinary major: the Italian-American Studies Program. Through his dedication to teaching and mentoring, he helped thousands of students achieve their dream of earning a college degree. He derived great personal and professional satisfaction from developing seminars for the Lehman Scholars Program.  In keeping with his deep concern for adult students having access to classes, Dr. LaRuffa offered evening anthropology courses every semester and taught in the Adult Degree Program at Lehman.  He also served as the Lehman College Ombudsman for three decades.

An affable man, with a calm demeanor and without pretention, he was very well liked. For over forty years, some of Dr. LaRuffa’s happiest hours were spent in his single-engine plane, flying to various destinations in the Northeast.  He was a voracious reader, with Tolstoy, Darwin and Dawkins among his favorites. Dr. LaRuffa took great pleasure in listening to Beethoven and spending time in upstate New York, where he found awe-inspiring sunsets over the Hudson. He enjoyed the Hudson Valley’s trees, fields, and farm animals of the region and eating in the local diners.

Anthony L. LaRuffa is survived by his wife, Phyllis Rafti, three children, and four grandchildren.