The Times Union (Albany) profiles NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi in the Jan. 11, 2009 edition of the newspaper's Capitaland Quarterly report, excerpted as follows:
Dick Iannuzzi: NYSUT president taps Robert Frost
...The middle of three brothers, [Iannuzzi] grew up in a working-class family in Brooklyn. His late father, Victor, who didn't complete high school, was a paper cutter for a label maker in lower Manhattan for 35 years and became shop steward of his union local. His 85-year-old mother, Marie, a high school graduate, was a court stenographer, dental hygienist and had other jobs.
"My dad was always vocal about politics and that was a big influence on me," Iannuzzi said. "The union meetings were Sunday mornings and I remember watching for my dad to return. If he gave a thumbs up, the vote passed and they had a new contract. Thumbs down meant they were going on strike. When I was a teenager, my dad challenged the union leadership and someone broke his jaw at a meeting."
Iannuzzi paid his way through night classes at City University's Brooklyn College by driving a cab on weekends and working weekdays as an office clerk for an insurance firm on Wall Street, where he met his future wife. He earned his bachelor's degree with a major in political science and a minor in education.
His dreams of pursuing a doctorate in political science were ditched because he needed to earn money, and he got a job teaching elementary school in 1970 in Central Islip, a low-income, racially mixed community on Long Island. "I fell in love with teaching," he said.
Iannuzzi spent the next 34 years teaching at the elementary level in Central Islip, most of it in fourth grade. He quickly became active in the Central Islip Teachers Association and spent 20 years as the union's vice president and held the office of president from 1996 to 2004. He keeps a framed 1970 strike poster from the Central Islip teachers' union in his spacious NYSUT corner office from the walkout four months after he arrived...
"I used a lot of poetry in my English classes as a teacher. I also started a poetry club and the kids published their own poetry twice a year in a poetry journal. Robert Frost has always been one of my favorite poets. Reading Frost helps me to take the time to reflect on a situation before I take a position, which can drive my wife and kids crazy, but it's useful in a leader. It's better not to make a snap judgment.
"Three of my all-time favorite Frost poems are 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,' 'The Road Not Taken' and 'Mending Wall.' A lot of his lines resonate with me because they're about collaboration and building consensus and that's what a union leader does."