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Highlighting Heritage

Chris R. Vaccaro, MA ’11, Builds Partnership with Stony Brook’s Center for Italian Studies


By Christine McGrath

Chris R. Vaccaro

In coordination with the IABF, Vaccaro threw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Nationals Park in Washington, DC on Tuesday, June 20, 2023.

“How can I be a better leader?” is a question Chris R. Vaccaro, MA ’11, often asks himself, especially when it comes to the Italian American community. “I always think about what comes next for my kids, society, our community, and how to incorporate my heritage.” He and a contact through the Italian American Baseball Federation brainstormed ways to connect the millions of Italian Americans on Long Island. Vaccaro wanted to create a centralized point for all of those organizations to come together to “delve deeply into our past while speaking to the future.” He founded the Italian American Heritage Society of Long Island in October 2023 as that centralized point.  “The society will help prevent us from losing sight of who we were and who we are today.”

The organization’s primary goals are advocacy and education, including teaching younger generations about Italian culture. Those goals align with Stony Brook’s Center for Italian Studies, which is why Vaccaro reached out to his alma mater to create a partnership with the Italian American Heritage Society of Long Island. “As an alumnus, seeing what the center has built over the last 20 years means a lot,” he said. “I look forward to working together to bring special programs, workshops and events to the community and honoring our heritage.”

The partnership will allow for the Center and the Heritage Society to collaborate on initiatives that advance the mission and vision of each organization. Primarily, they will be resources for one another by providing resources, making connections and fostering communication among key players of the Italian American community on Long Island.

It’s no surprise that Vaccaro is so passionate about the Italian American Heritage Society of Long Island. Since getting his master’s degree in public policy, Vaccaro has incorporated his passions — civil engagement, journalism, baseball, and Italian American heritage — into everything he does. And he attributes many of his professional successes to the skills he developed at Stony Brook University. Whether it’s been analyzing budgets at The Topps Company and Altice USA, getting involved in his local community, teaching at Hofstra University, producing and directing a documentary with the Italian National Baseball Team, or running the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame, Vaccaro believes Stony Brook prepared him to make a difference as a leader, organizer, and community advocate. He studied under Lee Koppelman, the executive director of Stony Brook’s Center for Regional Policy Studies and the head of the Long Island Regional Planning Board. 

“He was my adviser and one of my most influential professors,” Vaccaro said. “I felt like I was living history every time I met with him, as he was one of the most influential people in Long Island planning history.”  

group photo of the Italian American Heritage Society of Long Island

Vaccaro (center) with 40 Under Forty honorees in 2014. Group 40 Under 40 Photo courtesy of Jason Gardner Photography

The past Stony Brook University 40 Under Forty honoree was recently named senior editorial advisor at the World Baseball Network. He helps with editorial strategy, production operations, and standards in the role. International baseball is not uncommon for Vaccaro, as he is on the executive board of the Italian American Baseball Foundation (IABF). 

“It is the American arm of Italian baseball,” explained Vaccaro. “The IABF hopes to shine a light on Italian American baseball players, coaches, front-office executives, and others involved in the game.” It was through the IABF that Vaccaro traveled to Italy to interview Team Italy players and film their practices ahead of the 2023 World Baseball Classic, which was turned into the multipart documentary that premiered at the 40th annual Milano Federation of International Cinema Television Sportifs Fest in Italy.

What’s next for Vaccaro, who has won Emmy and Murrow awards for his oversight of digital and broadcast projects when he was digital vice president of News 12 Networks? Besides his new role with the World Baseball Network, growing the IABF, and expanding the Italian American Heritage Society of Long Island, Vaccaro plans to combine his passion for teaching international relations as a Fulbright specialist. 

“I hope to teach media and journalism to students worldwide — giving me yet another opportunity to embrace other cultures and heritages.” Any Stony Brook students studying Italian or Stony Brook alumni who majored in Italian should contact Vaccaro directly to get involved in the Italian American Heritage Society of Long Island. He can be reached at ItalianAmericanLongIsland@gmail.com.