After Ten Years, Eliot Masters Plan To Depart

After ten years serving as masters of Eliot House, Lino Pertile and Anna Bensted announced that they plan to step down from their posts in June 2010 in an e-mail to the House community on Thanksgiving Day.

“This has been, and continues to be, a wonderful experience that I have enjoyed enormously in all aspects and particularly in my constant contact with the undergraduates that I got to know throughout the years,” Pertile said in an interview.

He said that he and Bensted are stepping down because they decided prior to assuming their posts that they would only remain there for ten years.

In their e-mail, Pertile and Bensted thanked undergraduates for the experience of living with them for the past decade, referencing specific community activities that residents said helped build House spirit.

“Lino’s enthusiasm for the IM crew races and the Eliot Boat Club has infused so much life into that aspect of House culture, which has spilled over into so many other places,” wrote House Committee Co-Chair Michael F. Ayoub ’10 in an e-mailed statement to the Crimson. “The open houses they periodically hold at their residence are always warm and inviting, a main social event for all of Eliot House.”


Pertile and Bensted also frequently chat with House residents in the dining hall and make an effort to learn the names of every new House resident before he or she moves in, Ayoub wrote.

Toby Berkman, a resident tutor in Eliot House, said that Pertile and Bensted have worked to create an open and comfortable community for its members.

“Lino believes in interpersonal communication,” he said. “While we send out announcements over e-mail, he has an Eliot ‘Town Crier’ stand up in the dining hall and declare events over dinner. This brings us back to a time when people communicated face-to-face.”

Members of the House community said that Pertile is renowned for his narrative abilities, and the Masters capitalized upon this in their letter to the House. In the missive, Pertile tells the tale of a deal he made with the ghost of former University President and House namesake Charles W. Eliot: that new House Masters cannot come unless Eliot House wins the Agassiz Cup for House crew. (Pertile told House members that the former Harvard president agreed to help boost the team to victory this year.)

Pertile—who grew up in a small village between Padua and Venice in Northeastern Italy—is also a professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and has published widely within the field of Dante scholarship.

He is currently teaching Literature and Arts A-26: “Dante’s Divine Comedy and its World.” Last fall, he received a Q guide rating of 4.5 as an instructor, while the course received a 4.4 overall.

Prior to beginning his Harvard career, Pertile taught in the United Kingdom at the Universities of Reading, Sussex, and Edinburgh.

Bensted is assistant program director and executive producer of special projects at WBUR, the National Public Radio station in Boston. She worked for over a decade in the UK prior to starting work at WBUR.