Members of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.
Raquel: Hermann Von Baravelli, who was an “artist in math”
Frank: James “Jim” Murray, “the most dedicated and sincere teacher I have ever had.”
Favorite Adelphi memory: Having lunch together every day, and meeting friends for a bridge game at the snack bar in Building A.
First met each other: At the “Howdy Hop” in November of their first year.
Open Raquel Celenza’s scrapbook, and you can almost hear the music in the Garden City Hotel at an Adelphi junior prom. From restaurant matchbooks from their double-dates, some of them with favorite professors, to photographs, dance invitations, and even graduate school rejection letters, every item tells a story of Adelphi’s post-war days as a co-educational college.
Dr. Celenza came to Adelphi in 1946 after serving as an infantryman in the U.S. Army and fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. He pursued a double major in pre-medicine and chemistry, knowing that the influx of veterans had created stiff competition for many jobs and professional school placements.
Mrs. Celenza transferred to Adelphi from Hunter College in order to find a more peaceful environment away from the city. She was drawn to nursing, in part because of the “smart uniforms” of the cadet nurses. However, her family convinced her to pursue a more academic calling, so she became a math major. “It was the most scientific program that did not require any labs,” she jokes.
During their college years, the Celenzas were leaders of Adelphi’s social scene. Mrs. Celenza was a member of Phi Mu, and fondly recalls their attendance at various hops and formals. Dr. Celenza, a lacrosse player and drummer in several student music groups, was a founding member of Omicron Phi, formed to bring together athletes and musicians.
After Adelphi, Dr. Celenza applied to 42 dental schools, and enrolled in Georgetown, the only one that offered him acceptance. Mrs. Celenza followed Dr. Celenza’s lead into graduate school, but was disappointed to discover that as a college graduate she was severely limited in the number of nursing schools for which she was eligible.
At the encouragement of Mildred Montag, Mrs. Celenza enrolled in Yale University and received her M.S. in nursing. She considers it an “excellent education” in leading, training, and educating future nurses. Mrs. Celenza quips that her training was particularly useful when she performed triage on her own family.
In 1953, Dr. and Mrs. Celenza moved to Bayside, where he opened his first practice without a single patient. “In those days, Long Island was really growing, and everyone needed a doctor and dentist.” In no time, he moved from treating the nuns at the convent down the street for free, to overseeing a booming practice.
Drawn to the aesthetic, artistic, and technical demands of prosthodontics, which he defines as “replacing missing parts,” Dr. Celenza soon became an international expert and teacher in this young specialty. For over 20 years, he instructed dental students in colleges and universities around the world, and particularly enjoyed his time in Israel and Italy. At one point, he taught at New York University every Friday morning, and then took the shuttle to teach in Boston each afternoon. His practice expanded to include four of his former students, and was for many years the largest prosthodontics practice in the world. Today, both of his sons continue the tradition as leading innovators in dentistry.
Dr. Celenza was recently honored with the Dan Gordon Distinguished Professor Award by the American College of Prosthodontics. In his presentation paper, he called for a return to the academic study of dentistry and medicine. “Too much attention is put on the practical these days,” he says.
Even in retirement, the Celenzas remain enthusiastic hosts and entertainers. Dr. and Mrs. Celenza are members of the Columbus Citizens Foundation, and enjoy advancing Italian culture and gourmet cooking. Devoted fans of opera, their performance screenings and dinners, sometimes for as many as 70 guests, have drawn a loyal following. Dr. Celenza’s favorite opera remains “whichever one I’m listening to.”