Colleagues saw murdered professor as 'rising star'

Funeral mass Monday at Ascension

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Peter D'Agostino was an accomplished scholar, dedicated teacher, loving husband, devoted father, son, brother, and friend. Oak Park resident D'Agostino was murdered Wednesday as he was coming home from his job as an associate professor of History and Catholic studies at University of Illinois at Chicago. He was 42.

D'Agostino's book "Rome in America:  Transnational Catholic Ideology from the Risorgimento to Fascism" received the Frank S. and Elizabeth D. Brewer Prize of the American Society of Church History in 2003.

"His colleagues saw him as a rising star;  his friends saw him as a lively and kind person," said Christopher Boyer, a colleague in the UIC history department and one of approximately 10 members of the department who live in Oak Park. 

"He had a really wry sense of humor," Boyer said. "He was a serious person who knew how to throw in a zinger once in a while. That made him so much fun to socialize with."

D'Agostino was as dedicated to teaching as he was to his research, colleagues said.

"He was a terrific colleague and an incredibly talented teacher," said Eric Arenson, the chairman of the history department at UIC. "He took his teaching so seriously and he was so dedicated to it. He was earnest. He was dedicated. He took what he did very seriously, but he also had a element of levity."

D'Agostino, who grew up the youngest of five children in Staten Island, N.Y., came to UIC in 2001 after teaching for six years at Stonehill College, a Catholic college in North Easton, Mass. He made a big impression in his time on the Stonehill campus according to Stonehill College spokesman Martin McGovern.

"In those six years he made his mark," said McGovern. "It was obvious that he was an exceptional teacher and scholar. He had a very good blend of teaching and scholarship. He fused them exceptionally."

D'Agostino received his bachelor's degree in religious studies at Brown University in Providence, R.I. In 1987 he earned a master's degree in religion at the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in the history of Christianity at University of Chicago in 1993.

He was remembered fondly at the University of Chicago.

"He was charming," said Nathelda McGee who works at the Divinity School at University of Chicago. "He was Italian and that really came through."

D'Agostino came to UIC in 2001 and was quickly awarded tenure in 2004.

D'Agostino's research took him to the Vatican. Focusing on the development of the Catholic Church in America, his work linked church history with the history of immigration, especially the history of Italian-Americans.

In addition to his award-winning book, D'Agostino published a number of scholarly articles and contributed chapters to other scholarly works.

He is survived by his wife Mary Mapes, an adjunct professor of American history at Lake Forest College, his 1 1/2-year-old daughter Rita Grace, his parents Rita and Vincent, and four siblings: Vincent, Catherine, Michael, and Susan.

Visitation will be Sunday, June 26 from 3 to 9 p.m. at Drechsler, Brown and Williams Funeral Home, 203 S. Marion St. The funeral mass will be at 10 a.m. Monday at Ascension Church, 815 S. East Ave.

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