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Obit: Professor of Latin American History Joseph T. Criscenti


By Office of News & Public Affairs |

Published: Jan. 9, 2013

A funeral Mass was celebrated in St. Bartholomew Church in Needham on Jan. 7 for Joseph T. Criscenti, a professor of Latin American history for 33 years who died on Jan. 3. He was 92.

A specialist in Argentine history, especially the formation of the Argentine Republic, Dr. Criscenti — who began teaching at BC in 1955, after receiving his doctorate in history from Harvard University — won the 1961 James Alexander Robertson Prize of the Conference on Latin American History for his article “Argentine Constitutional History, 1810-1852: A Re-examination,” published in the Hispanic American Historical Review. During his research trips to Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, he acquired books that became part of the Boston College Libraries’ collection of Latin American materials.

Dr. Criscenti was a founder of the New England Council of Latin American Studies (NECLAS), and the secretary-treasurer for nearly 20 years. In honor of his efforts, NECLAS established the annual Joseph T. Criscenti Best Article Prize. 

Dr. Criscenti remained active in his field following his retirement in 1988, editing the 1993 book Sarmiento and His Argentina and serving as a contributing editor of the Handbook of Latin American Studies published by the Library of Congress. He also authored articles for the Encyclopedia of Latin America, among other publications, and wrote numerous book reviews.

Born in Detroit, Dr. Criscenti graduated from the University of Detroit in 1942. Inducted into the Army, he was assigned to the Adjutant General’s Section in General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters in Manila. He was awarded the Bronze Star for reconstructing the historical record of changes in the army’s organization in the Philippines. As an Army reservist, Dr. Criscenti became the commander of a military history detachment assigned to the Office of Military History. He retired from the army in 1980 as a lieutenant colonel.

He is survived by his wife, Jacqueline (Penez); his daughter, Louise; his brother, Sam; his sister-in-law, Lily Ethier, and several nieces and nephews.

Expressions of sympathy may be made in Dr. Criscenti’s memory to the New England Council of Latin American Studies, Secretariat, c/o Kathy Eckroad, David Rockefeller Center of Latin American Studies, 1730 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA 02138.