Columbus Forum seal

The Purpose of The Columbus Forum

  1. to encourage, assist and guide qualified Italian-American employees of the School District of Philadelphia in achieving their highest personal and professional potentials.
  2. to focus on educational programs that provide substantial scholarship support to American students of Italian descent. To this end, the Columbus Forum offers a mentoring program and a scholarship program to children and grandchildren of its members. 
  3. to foster an increased awareness of and a supportive interest in the collective role of the Italian-American Community as a reflection of its cultural heritage and to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of Americans of Italian descent).  
  4. to enroll in its membership all persons of Italian birth or descent and all others as prescribed in Article I of the General Laws. 
  5. to promote national education and secure adequate laws for the benefit of its members by active participation in the political, social, and civic life of our communities. 
  6. to encourage the dissemination of Italian culture in the United States and uphold the prestige of the people of Italian Heritage in America. 

The History of The Columbus Forum

In the late 1960s, Robert Sebastian was appointed to the Philadelphia Board of Education.

It soon became evident to him that employees of Italian-American heritage represented a disproportionate segment of the District’s leadership in spite of holding impeccable credentials. In addition, he believed that the District’s curriculum was not rich in offering Italian-American studies, or offering adequate language courses in Latin and Italian.

Robert Sebastian convened a small group of employees representing a cross section of departments within the District to examine and discuss the issues raised above and to develop a strategy to eliminate inequities.

The group decided to establish a professional/fraternal organization comprised of District employees of Italian-American heritage, their spouses and family members. The organization would be unaffiliated and structured along the lines of a lodge of the Sons of Italy in America. The Columbus Forum was born!

The mission of the Columbus Forum was clear and unequivocal. The main objectives were:

  • to support a comprehensive quality educational program for all student, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity;

  • to ensure that the curriculum of the School District includes studies of the Italian language and culture;

  • that no employees of the District be subject to discrimination of any kind and that promotional opportunities exist for all qualified individuals without preferential treatment;

  • that the Forum assists any members seeking promotion to become qualified and prepared to take non-discriminatory examination;

  • that the Columbus Forum provide a calendar of rich professional and social activities;

  • that the Forum develop a scholarship program for students who show an interest in Italian-American studies;

  • that the Forum recognize and honor individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of education.

In a short span of time, the Columbus Forum had close to one thousand members who represented a powerful voice in the governance and policies of the School District of Philadelphia.

Following a period of independent status, the Forum decided to become a lodge of the Sons of Italy in America and was designated The Columbus Forum, Lodge 1492.

Prepared by
 Dr. M.P. Marcase
 Superintendent, Emeritus
 School District of Philadelphia
 Associate Professor Emeritus, Temple University