Dr. Henry Federighi’s Role in Antioch Science and Medicine Success

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by | Jun 12, 2020

Affectionately known as “Chief” and “the Chief,” Professor of Biology Henry Federighi (1900-1960) exemplified the Antioch College envisioned by Arthur Morgan. Morgan sought a faculty not only expert in their fields but also interested in building a community. He wanted them to put down roots and take an active part in not just the development of his New Antioch, but in the village of Yellow Springs as well. Federighi and his family embraced it all.

Born in New York City to Italian immigrant parents, Federighi attended New Brunswick, NJ, High School, where he won a prize in Latin ​his senior year. The son of an ironworker, he earned a full scholarship to Rutgers University, where he had a stellar undergraduate career, graduating at the top of his class in 1923 and taking home an armful of academic awards. At Harvard University, where he completed his graduate work in 1926, he duplicated the feat with multiple fellowships while publishing multiple scientific works with his mentor, Professor JW Crozier. In 1924 he married Marie Antoinette Delage of Southbridge, MA.

The newly minted PhD then took a position as a biologist with the US Bureau of Fisheries, where gained a reputation as an authority on the oyster. It was a transient existence, however, and particularly after the birth of their son Enrico in 1927, the Federighis looked to settle down. A yearning for stability and a desire to work with young people led Henry to seek a teaching job, and found one at Antioch in 1929.

Federighi devoted himself to Antioch and Yellow Springs the rest of his life. His contribution to the college, so well documented in an article by Dr. Bernie Guyer ’65, mirrored his contributions to the village. His community service included multiple terms on the Miami Township School Board, and he was longtime chair of the Yellow Springs Recreational Committee. At the same time he was also President of the Yellow Springs Community Council. During World War II, he chaired the Yellow Springs Salvage Committee, collecting scrap metal for the war effort. He is credited with forming the first integrated Boy Scout troop in the area. He chaired the committee that organized the village centennial in 1956. No wonder he was named Yellow Springs Man of the Year for 1955. At his untimely death in 1960, Federighi was still working.

Antiochiana has many of the documents that went into Bernie’s paper, and we enjoyed several days together while he did the research. In addition, the archives has several of the composite photographs he made of his biology undergraduates that once decorated his office in the Science Building.

Read the full paper where Dr. Guyer explores his research question, “What accounts for the strong record of Antioch in sending graduates on to careers in medicine and science?” (PDF)

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