Over the years, the Morris Park Columbus Day Parade has selected many special grand marshals, and this year’s selection is nothing short of impressive either.
Dr. Joseph Scelsa, with an extraordinary academic and professional resume, as well as a life filled with community work, has been chosen by the parade committee to lead the 2011 Bronx Columbus Day Parade.
Scelsa, who was born in the Belmont area, moved to Pelham Parkway with his family at the age of two, and ultimately moved to Morris Park when he was 15. A graduate of Salesian High School in New Rochelle, Scelsa received his bachelor’s degree from Long Island University, a masters degree from Lehman college and a doctorate from the Teachers College at Columbia University.
“When you’re honored in the neighborhood you grew up in, it’s hard not to be thrilled,” Scelsa said. “If I marched on Fifth Avenue in the New York City Columbus Day Parade, I honestly do not believe the feeling would be the same then to be grand marshal in Morris Park.”
Scelsa’s grandparents immigrated to the United States from Italy and although he was born and raised in this country, he is very proud of his Italian heritage. While teaching at the City University of New York, Scelsa was also director of the university’s John D. Calandra Italian American Institute.
In 1999, Scelsa co-arranged “The Italians of New York” exhibition at the New York Historical Society. The temporary exhibit was such a success that Scelsa was determined to find a permanent location for an Italian-American historical museum.
On June 12, 2001, the Italian American Museum was chartered and currently operates in the heart of Little Italy on 155 Mulberry Street. As founder and president, Dr. Scelsa has two goals in mind: to make Italian-Americans proud of who they are, and to teach others more about the Italian influence in the United States.
“As Italian-Americans, we need to be respected, and most importantly, we need to respect ourselves,” Scelsa said. “We want fellow Italian-American’s to be proud of who they are.”
For several years, the museum operated out of a CUNY building, but was able to move into it’s own and current location on Columbus Day in October 2008. The museum contains historic memorabilia, documents, statues, photos, paintings, and other exhibits that portray Italian history in the United States.
Scelsa still owns and runs a museum administrative office out of his Morris Park home on Hering Avenue. He will be honored at the Bronx Columbus Day Parade dinner dance at Maestro’s Catering Hall on Friday, September 30, and will lead New York State’s second largest Columbus Day parade down Morris Park Avenue on Sunday, October 9.