Wednesday, October 9, 2019 - 9:45am

Mercy Adjunct Professor Alfred Liotta has been selected to join the Westchester County Senior Citizens Hall of Fame, which is sponsored by the Westchester County Department of Senior Programs and Services (DSPS). Liotta will be inducted in December at an awards luncheon, and his name will be added to a plaque that is permanently displayed at DSPS.

“I see this as recognition and a thank you,” he explained. “It’s the icing on the cake to know that my grandchildren could go there one day and see my name on the wall — proof that Al Liotta was here and that he contributed.”

To be nominated for the Hall of Fame, a senior citizen must have made significant and enduring contributions to enhance Westchester’s quality of life through his or her professional and/or volunteer achievements. Nominations are made by community members, and the inductees are selected by a panel of judges and Hall of Fame members.

Liotta was nominated by New York State Assemblyman Nader J. Sayegh of the 90th District, who wrote on the nomination form, “When other seniors his age are ‘retired,’ living in Florida or playing bridge, Al, on the other hand, continues to make his mark in the community and its citizens with his volunteer and professional work in counseling and behavioral support to others. His ‘can do’ attitude sets him apart from others his age and he is a sought-after leader in helping those in need.”

Professionally, Liotta worked as a high school Spanish teacher for over 30 years and then as principal of the Holy Spirit Regional School in Stamford, CT. He also taught at several local colleges and universities as an adjunct professor on both the undergraduate and graduate levels, including nine years in the Behavioral Science Department at Mercy’s School of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Over the course of his career, he earned four degrees, including a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Oneonta, a master’s degree in Spanish literature from St. John’s University and a doctorate in educational administration from Fordham University. Later in his career, he returned to Fordham to earn a master’s degree in social work. He is also a Fellow in Thanatology, an advanced professional certification granted by the Association of Death Education and Counseling.

Throughout his life, Liotta has volunteered extensively in the community. As a licensed social worker and mental health counselor, he counsels the families of firefighters and police officers killed in the line of duty for the Tuckahoe Police Department, the Yonkers Fire Department and other departments. Within the Archdiocese of New York, he provides counseling services for hospital patients, serves as a pastoral bereavement counselor, has led wake services in English, Spanish and French and has offered communion services for homebound congregants. In part because of this work for local churches, he was named a Knight Grand Cross of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a Roman Catholic order of knighthood under protection of the Pope.

Liotta credits his mother with inspiring him to devote his life to serving others. After emigrating from Italy to Brooklyn in 1915, she learned English, earned two degrees and became a leader in her community. She helped fellow immigrants navigate life in America by explaining how to contact city government regarding landlord issues, for example. She spoke at City Hall and on the floors of the New York State Assembly and New York State Senate on community issues — even chartering a train to transport community members from Brooklyn to Albany where they protested the proposed the suspension of a Greenpoint bus line and won.

Author of a 1996 book entitled When Students Grieve: A Guide to Bereavement in Schools, which is currently in its third edition, Liotta has presented guest lectures on topics such as mental health and grief at venues including the Association of Death Education and Counseling’s annual conference, Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, Bellevue Hospital/New York University Medical School, and several other local seminaries, schools, colleges, hospitals, and other community-based organizations.

Even though much of his work focuses on death and loss, Liotta himself is entirely focused on living his own life to the fullest and helping others do the same. “I’m a firm believer in the Prayer of Saint Francis: ‘It is in giving that we receive,’” he explained. “I get a lot of satisfaction from the work I do. I’m happy with the life I’ve led. No regrets at all. It’s been a great ride.”

Al Liotta