Pictured: Richard Ognibene, Sr, EdD, Elaine Ognibene, Ph.D., and their son Richard Ognibene Jr. '85
Elaine Ognibene, Ph.D., a Siena College English professor from 1973-2008, passed away on December 25.
Elaine Ognibene and her husband Richard came to the Capital District from Rochester to teach at Siena College. Ognibene completed her master's degree in English from SUNY Geneseo in 1973 and transitioned from part-time to full-time teaching in the Siena English Department. On top of teaching full time at the College and raising three children, Ognibene was also completing her Ph.D. in Language, Literature and Communication from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Ognibene retired in 2008 as a full professor with 35 years at Siena. She published articles, presented at national and state academic organizations, held leadership positions in those organizations, and did service within her institution and her community.
“What [Elaine] modeled for me was how to be a truly extraordinary teacher, a committed scholar on the front lines of women’s and minority issues, and how important it is to have relationships, to care about the people you work with,” said Meg Woolbright, D.A., professor of English and director of the First-Year Seminar program. “Elaine was one of the very first people to invite me to her home for dinner, something I have never forgotten.”
Woolbright was not the only guest invited to dinner at Ognibene’s house; it was a shared tradition among her colleagues, students, and friends. Her obituary noted, “She was a professor ahead of her time. Her seminars always ended the same way: dinner at her home with students discussing their projects around her large dining room table. Students made a shocking discovery at those final class meetings; OMG, Dr. Ognibene is also a good cook. In all her courses, Ognibene focused on student inquiry rather than teacher performance.”
Ognibene was beloved by her students; she received letters that filled the multiple shoe boxes in which she kept them. It was these same students who shared memories and condolences upon hearing of Ognibene’s passing this Christmas season.
“Elaine was an inspiration, a role model, a mentor. I was so fortunate to have taken multiple classes with her during my Siena days- and modeled many of my own classroom techniques after hers...she was the perfect blend of kindness, firmness and motivation, encouraging us to discover our own learning path. She was remarkable,” said Deborah Papa Bouchard ’80.
“One of the highlights of my time at Siena was the time I spent in Elaine's classes. She was a gifted teacher and writer. She challenged me to do more and not settle. She leaves a legacy of excellence to all those lives she touched,” said Diane Martin-Grande ’84.
“Absolutely loved this woman. Started at Siena as a business major, but a few classes with her lit a fire in me that was never extinguished! I became an English teacher, then administrator and professor because of her! Passionate teacher, expert in literature, communication, both written and oral and champion of women,” said Diane DeSilva Owens ’80.