Man found off Martha’s Vineyard was prominent scholar

Luciano Rebay
Columbia University
Luciano Rebay

The man found floating off Martha’s Vineyard on Monday morning was a prominent professor at Columbia University in New York and a scholar of Italian literature.

Luciano Rebay, 86, of Tisbury, had a long and fruitful career that lasted more than 40 years as a professor at the university, according to a statement Wednesday from the school’s department of Italian.

Rebay taught a range of courses and wrote several books on modern and contemporary Italian poetry — a topic that was the primary focus for most of his career, according to a family member who asked not to be identified.


Upon his retirement from Columbia in 2005, he was designated the Giuseppe Ungaretti professor emeritus of Italian Literature.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

A fisherman found Rebay off the coast of West Tisbury on Monday morning, Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said Tuesday. The cause and manner of the scholar’s death is unclear, but authorities are not considering it suspicious.

There will not be an immediate memorial service for Rebay, a representative of the university said.

Jo Ann Cavallo, chairwoman of the department of Italian, said Rebay was a greatly influential professor within the department, and had left a lasting impact on the university.

Cavallo said in the statement: “His knowledge of Italian literature was deep, his commitment to university life unwavering, and his citizenship exemplary.”

Trisha Thadani can be reached at