For more than 20 years, students and faculty traveled to Virginia Tech’s historic Villa Maderni in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, Switzerland, to study at the Center for European Studies and Architecture. 

In 2014, following a renovation and expansion to improve the facilities and increase residential and academic space, the facility was renamed the Steger Center for International Scholarship. Now, the center’s library will bear the names of two people who were instrumental in its founding and early leadership.

The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors approved the naming in a resolution stating, “that in acknowledgement of the service and generosity of Olivio and Lucy Ferrari and in recognition of past and future benefits to the university, the library of the Steger Center for International Scholarship will be known as the Olivio and Lucy Ferrari Library.”

“Naming the library after the Ferraris is fitting tribute to two individuals who were so dedicated to the educational importance of international experiences and who played pivotal roles in developing Virginia Tech’s international travel program and the center in Riva San Vitale that has provided a home base for European studies for thousands of students,” said President Emeritus Charles W. Steger.

Architect and Professor Olivio Ferrari and his wife Lucy Ferrari came to the United States from Switzerland in 1963. The Ferraris arrived at Virginia Tech in 1965, where Olivio Ferrari joined the faculty of the newly formed College of Architecture and Urban Studies, and was responsible for shaping much of the pedagogy that still informs the teaching today.

Olivio Ferrari was named an Alumni Distinguished Professor in 1982 and Professor Emeritus posthumously in 2013.

The Ferraris were pioneers in developing the study abroad program at Virginia Tech, and after 20 years of traveling with students in Europe, they wanted to establish a study center there to serve as a home base. That desire was realized in December 1991 with the acquisition of Villa Maderni at Riva San Vitale, Switzerland.

Lucy and Olivio Ferrari worked to create, and then lead, the Center for European Studies and Architecture. Olivio served as the founding director of the center until 1994, and was succeeded by his wife, who served as director from 1994 until her retirement in 1997.

Lucy Ferrari has been recognized as a member of the Ut Prosim Society for her philanthropy to the university, which includes support for the Lucy & Olivio Ferrari Annual Scholarship, and the Ferrari Study Abroad Award, as well as considerable support provided to the Steger Center. She has also made generous contributions to the College of Architecture and Urban Studies through endowments and traveling scholarships.

In addition to their many academic and philanthropic contributions, the Ferraris donated 5,000 books to establish the center’s library.

“Lucy and Olivio have been treasured members of our faculty since the beginning of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. Their devotion to teaching and broadening the worldview of students has had a profound impact on generations of Virginia Tech students. To recognize a center of learning within the Swiss villa they treasured is a fitting tribute,” said Jack Davis, Reynolds Metals Professor of Architecture and dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.



Share this story