Anthony N. Baratta, Ph.D., a distinguished professor emeritus of Fordham’s Graduate School of Education who oversaw more than 100 student dissertations and developed programs, degrees, and grants that elevated students of color, died in Florida on April 7. He was 95.
Baratta taught at the Graduate School of Education from 1961 to 2008. In those 47 years, he served in multiple capacities, including associate dean, chairman of the division of administration and supervision, and chairman of the division of curriculum and teaching. He taught thousands of students—and served as a dissertation mentor for more than 100—who went on to become teachers, principals, professors, superintendents, and college presidents.
He was a “visionary dedicated to ensuring racial equality in education” who developed initiatives designed to boost students of color into leadership positions, according to his family’s obituary. From 1968 to 1972, he chaired and developed the Instructional Administrators Program, a landmark initiative funded by the Ford Foundation that successfully prepared 60 Black and Latinx administrators for leadership positions in New York City public schools.
The capstone of his career came on October 26, 1997, when he earned the title of distinguished professor at Fordham, according to his family’s obit. In 2001, he received the Bene Merenti Award for 40 years of service.
Baratta was born on October 21, 1925, in Martins Creek, Pennsylvania, to Gaetano Baratta and Antoinette Baratta (née Galio). He was a World War II veteran who served as a U.S. Navy radio operator in Italy and northern Africa from 1943 to 1946. After he was discharged from the Navy, he pursued a college education through the G.I. Bill of Rights. He earned a bachelor’s degree from East Stroudsburg State Teachers College, a master’s degree from Lehigh University, and a doctorate in education from Penn State University.
Baratta’s longtime career in education began in 1949, when he became an elementary school teacher at Centerfield School in Martins Creek. Three years later, he transitioned to Livingstone School in West Easton, Pennsylvania, where he became a teaching principal. In 1957, he moved to the State University of New York College at Geneseo, where he served as coordinator of the Latin American education program for students from Central and South America. This program became the subject of his doctoral dissertation, which “expanded and informed his affinity for multicultural education,” according to his family’s obit.
Outside of Fordham, Baratta held numerous leadership positions, including president of the New York Academy of Public Education, chairman of the National Conference of Professors of Educational Administration, president of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education of New York State, president of the Conference on Teacher Education of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, and founding editor of the Journal for the New York State Colleges of Teacher Education. He served as a visiting professor at California State University, Los Angeles, in 1975 and at Texas State University at San Marcos, formerly known as Southwest Texas State University, in 1979. In addition, he taught at Sunshine College in Japan.
Baratta co-edited three books and published numerous research and journal articles. He also served as a judge for the National Spelling Bee’s New York City championship at Madison Square Garden for two decades.
In 1949, Baratta married Philomena “Mae” LaPenna, his partner for more than seven decades. All five of their children attended Fordham; their son Thomas received his master’s degree from the Graduate School of Education.
Baratta and his wife retired in Florida, where he became involved with several organizations, including the Fordham Alumni Chapter of South Florida. He was a beloved member who was friendly and humble, said Daisy Henry, FCLC ’79. He wasn’t an alumnus, but he was actively involved in the alumni association, along with other former professors, said Ed Cooke, GSAS ’67, past president of the South Florida chapter.
“These were very, very loyal people to Fordham,” Cooke said, noting that one might expect that from an alumnus, but that it’s unusual for faculty. “They didn’t necessarily graduate from there, but they were more loyal to Fordham than anybody on the planet.”
Baratta is survived by his wife, Mae; four sons, Thomas Baratta, Nicholas Baratta, Anthony Baratta, Jr., and Mark Baratta; one daughter, Lucia Baratta Sessions and her husband, John Sessions; four grandchildren, Clark Baratta, Gemma Baratta, Ana Sessions, Ian Sessions and his wife, Kathryn; and numerous nieces and nephews. Baratta was predeceased by two brothers, Dennis Baratta and Renald Baratta, and his sister, Teresa DiFelice.
“He lived a full and rich life, was proud of his Italian heritage, and fervently believed in his Roman Catholic faith,” read his family’s obit.
A funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church on April 13 at 10:30 a.m., followed by interment at the Boca Raton Mausoleum.
Memorial gifts can be made to the Graduate School of Education’s scholarship fund in his honor, or by mailing a check to Bank of America – Gift Processing Center, Fordham University, PO Box 417762, Boston, MA 02241-7762.