Joseph Buttigieg, the late father of Pete Buttigieg, passed away in January of 2019 at the age of 71. He died a few days after his son told him be was planning to run for president in 2020.
The elder Buttigieg taught at Notre Dame for more than 35 years in the English department. He was also a published author, earned a Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Binghamton, grew up on the island of Malta and became a U.S. citizen in the late 1970s.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Joseph Buttigieg Was the Oldest of 8 Siblings & Spent the First Two Decades of His Life in Malta
Joseph Buttigieg was born on May 20, 1947, in the town of Hamrun in Malta. The small country is made up of three islands in the Mediterranean and is located south of Sicily.
Buttigieg was the oldest sibling in a very large family. His parents, Maria Concetta “Cettina” Portelli Buttigieg and Joseph Anthony Buttigieg, raised eight children. At the time of his death, five of his siblings were still living in Malta. One sibling moved to India and another was living in Surrey, England.
Buttigieg spent the first two decades of his life living in Malta. He attended the University of Malta, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. Buttigieg left his native Malta for good when he moved to Oxford, England, to pursue another postgraduate degree from Heythrop College.
2. Joseph Buttigieg Moved to the United States in the 1970s & Met His Wife, Jennifer Anne Montgomery, While Both Were Teaching at New Mexico State University
Joseph Buttigieg’s next move was to the United States. He first spent time on the east coast as he pursued a doctorate. He earned his Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1976.
That same year, Buttigieg accepted a teaching job at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. This is where he met the woman with whom he would spend the rest of his life: Jennifer Anne Montgomery. She was also a faculty member at the university.
Buttigieg became a U.S. citizen in 1979. Soon after, he and Montgomery got married in El Paso, Texas, on January 6, 1980. But their time in the southwest portion of the United States came to an end that year. They moved to South Bend, Indiana, where they become became professors at Notre Dame.
3. Joseph Buttigieg Taught at the University of Notre Dame For Nearly Four Decades
Joseph Buttigieg taught at Notre Dame for nearly four decades. He was an English professor, served as the Chair of the department and was named a William R. Kenan Jr. Professor Emeritus of English.
Buttigieg’s held several leadership roles during his long tenure at Notre Dame. He served as the director of the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program, which is described on the university’s website as a “comprehensive, merit-based scholarship and leadership-development program that seeks to attract, encourage, and equip extraordinary students who will have a transformational effect on the Notre Dame community, the Church, and the world.” He led the Stamps Scholars program, another merit-based scholarship fund.
Buttigieg served as the director of the London program, which gives students an opportunity to study abroad. He also was named as a fellow in the University’s Nanovic Institute for European Studies and Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies.
Buttigieg’s bio on the English department website states that his main interests were “modern literature, critical theory, and the relationship between culture and politics.”
The president of Notre Dame, Reverent John Jenkins, described Buttigieg as a “superb scholar, an inspirational teacher and a pioneering leader… We join with his many, many family and friends in mourning his passing. We will miss him at Notre Dame.”
Buttigieg’s obituary further describes him as a professor who took joy in mentoring students. “He relished the company of his colleagues and students, and took great pleasure in the subsequent achievements of the countless women and men who studied under his guidance.”
4. Professor Buttigieg Was a Published Author & Translator; He Was Especially Interested in the Work of Italian Political Theorist Antonio Gramsci
Joseph Buttigieg spent much of his time writing when he wasn’t in the classroom. In 1987, his book “A Portrait of the Artist in Different Perspective” was published by the Ohio University Press, located in Athens, Ohio. The book centered on Irish novelist James Joyce’s aesthetics.
Buttigieg was also a translator and was especially interested in the works of Antonio Gramsci, an Italian philosopher and political activist with communist leanings. He was originally from Sardinia and died in Rome in 1937 at age 46. Buttigieg edited and translated Gramsci’s “Prison Notebooks.” Buttigieg’s translations, of which there were three volumes, were published between 1992 and 2007 by the Columbia University Press.
Buttigieg also wrote multiple articles on Gramsci which were then translated into Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Japanese, according to his bio on the University of Notre Dame website. Buttigieg even founded the International Gramsci Society and served as its president. The society is described on its website as a “non-profit organization whose aim is to facilitate the communication and exchange of information among the very large number of individuals from around the world who are interested in the life and work of Antonio Gramsci.”
5. Joseph Buttigieg’s Last Words Were ‘It’s Been a Good Trip’& Told Pete He Was Proud of the Decision to Run For President
Joseph Buttigieg passed away on Sunday, January 27, 2019, from an undisclosed illness. He died shortly after his son announced that he planned to run for president. In an appearance on ABC’s the View, Pete Buttigieg shared that his decision to run had been one of the very last things he talked about with his father. Pete explained that he said to his dad, “I hope I make you proud.” The elder Buttigieg was on a ventilator and couldn’t speak, but mouthed the words, “You will.”
Joseph Buttigieg’s last words before his passing were “It’s been a good trip,” his son shared on Facebook. Pete Buttigieg said that his father was surrounded by family when he died, writing, “We miss him already but his love of life, and his moral passion, will stay with us forever.”
The obituary read: “All who knew Joe will remember him as a brilliant and energetic man, passionate about ideas, education, public affairs, art in all its forms, and justice. His wife, Anne Montgomery, son, Peter Buttigieg, and son-in-law, Chasten Glezman Buttigieg, all of South Bend, remember him as a loving father and husband who was fond of sports and travel, friendship and family. He was a genial companion, an enthusiastic listener, and a loyal friend, husband, brother, father, and son.”