Feature Article

A History of His Own

Professor Joseph Aieta III to retire from Lasell after 49 years of service

Professor Joseph Aieta III

There's the Crow's Nest. River Day. Boomer. Torchlight. And then there's Joe Aieta.

To become a legend at Lasell College is no easy feat. It requires decades of service and countless lives touched - and with Aieta, it nearly didn't happen.

In 1969, Joseph Aieta III sent out 45 resumes for history teaching positions around the Commonwealth. His yield? A single reply from one Dick Packard, chair of the history department and former acting president of Lasell College, who assured Aieta that his qualifications were "lovely," but that no openings existed at the time.

Fast forward a few months, and Aieta received a harried phone call to notify him that a position had opened up.

"I got the call and thought, ‘I'll give it a try for just a year and see what happens,'" Aieta said. Forty-nine years later, it's a decision he does not regret.

Aieta was no stranger to the power of a strong education. As a 12-year-old student in the seventh grade at the Boston Latin School, he discovered his passion for history and for teaching.

"I had a dynamite U.S. history teacher. His name was Alfred Rosenthal, and he was exquisite. He made history exciting, his class was demanding, and I knew then and there that this was what I wanted to be."

As an undergraduate at the College of the Holy Cross and a graduate student at Brandeis University, he continued to navigate his interests through research and on-the-ground explorations in Beirut and Baghdad. When he returned to the United States and landed his teaching position at Lasell, he taught a series of courses in U.S. history before expanding the college's repertoire to include European history, ethics, political philosophy, existentialism, Middle Eastern history, and more.

"What I love most about the subject is that it has no definite answers," said Aieta. "You can talk facts and figures, but they get dull after a while. History is most exciting when you think about the ‘why's' instead of the ‘what's.'"

Aieta has impacted the lives of hundreds of students across a number of disciplines and majors. From the beginning, he saw the value of teaching interdisciplinary courses that combined lessons in history with art, government, religion, and more.

"You're more than your major in life," he noted. "I always tried to intrigue students with ideas of how culture and history connected to absolutely everything."

He's certainly accomplished that goal.

"Joe Aieta has been a master historian, teacher, and leader-scholar among the faculty," said Jim Ostrow, vice president for Academic Affairs. "He has inspired thousands of students about the power of historical awareness and their capability for creative thinking and intellectual expression."

So, after 49 years of influencing young minds, what will this Lasell legend miss most? The students, for one.

"Lasell students bring an intriguing intellectual curiosity with them. They've taught me so much more than I could ever teach them," said Aieta.

He'll miss his colleagues and the encouragement they've provided, too.

"The continued support has helped me become more than I ever thought I could be. It's why I always encourage my students, too. If I can constantly get better, then why shouldn't they?"

The college has established the Joe Aieta Endowed Scholarship Fund in honor of Joe's upcoming retirement and in recognition of his nearly 50 years of service. To participate, please contact Wendy Dillon at (617) 243-2282 or at joeaietafund@lasell.edu.

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