Fordham Notes: Husband and Wife Team Up to Run Medieval Academy of America

Monday, February 28, 2011

Husband and Wife Team Up to Run Medieval Academy of America

Eileen Gardiner, TMC ’69, GSAS ’80, and Ronald Musto, FCRH ’69, met as pre-med students in a science lab on Fordham’s Rose Hill campus in the late 1960s.

“I was pulling Ds,” Musto said. “She was pulling Cs. I asked to borrow her [burners] and flasks. Hers were always clean. Mine were not.”

Musto and Gardiner’s interest in medicine didn’t stick. She found her calling in English—medieval literature, in particular—and he rediscovered his love of history.

“I was always reading history as a kid,” said Musto, who earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in medieval history at Columbia University. “It constantly raises questions that fascinate me.”

Meanwhile, Gardiner went on to earn her doctorate at Fordham. She was “drawn to the amazing imagination that one could find in [medieval] literature, which combined religion and nature and a sort of way of life that was so different from our own,” she said. “There was just something that naturally attracted me to it.”

As Gardiner and Musto found their academic calling, they also fell in love.

“We tried to get married [at Fordham] one night by a Jesuit friend,” Gardiner said. “He told us to go home and sleep it off!”

They did, but eventually married in 1970, a year after graduation, and they’ve been together—personally and professionally—ever since.

Recently, Gardiner and Musto were named executive director and editor, respectively, of the Medieval Academy of America and its journal, Speculum, following a successful 10- year stint as co-directors of the American Council of Learned Societies’ humanities e-book division.

“We’ve always done things together. We were business partners from so early on,” said Gardiner.

“It makes for an interesting breakfast conversation,” Musto said. “It makes for obsessiveness,” Gardiner added.

In the first of their many projects together, Gardiner and Musto started the Co-Op Bookstore at Fordham with a $10,000 investment from the University’s United Student Government. They ran the store, located at 613 Fordham Road, during their junior and senior years.

Later, after earning their doctoral degrees, Gardiner and Musto worked in book publishing. Eventually, they decided to start a publishing house.

In 1985, they founded Italica Press, publishing six titles in their first year, mostly out-of-print books. Though they still publish roughly the same number of titles today, Gardiner and Musto have expanded their list to include original academic titles.

They also publish electronic books, something they did earlier than most houses.

In 1999, the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) tapped them to publish an electronic collection of monographs in history.

Together, Gardiner and Musto created the ACLS Humanities E-Book Division, a fully searchable online collection of nearly 3,000 titles. With more than 640 institutional subscribers, in 33 different countries, it is widely considered one of the best online resources for research and scholarship.

At the Medieval Academy of America, Gardiner and Musto will help bring the academy into the digital realm, while maintaining the quality of the academy’s journal.

It is, in a sense, their dream job.

“The opportunity to work for the Medieval Academy really combines everything that we could imagine to be able to work on,” Gardiner said, “and to do it for the premier society in the world is an honor.”

“We’ve always been outsiders,” Musto said. “We’ve never held academic positions. I think it’s delightful and in a certain sense ironic that we’ve ended up in a position that is central to this world.”

—Miles Doyle, FCRH ’01


Anonymous said...

very inspiring post - gives other straggling medievalists hope

Kevin Smith said...

Contests to my classmates, Musto and Gardiner! It's a great thing to spend your life doing work you love.

Kevin Smith FCO '69

Rob Posteraro said...

Congratulations to my former classmates, Ron and Eileen!! A fascinating and circuitous journey, but what an end! BTW, Ron, it looks like we have the same barber :-)

Rob Posteraro FCO '69