AFTER HE FINISHED second grade, DiIulio and his family moved to a house of their own in Southwest Philadelphia. His father was a sheriff's deputy, and his mother worked in fifth-floor dinettes at the former Strawbridge and Clothier's for 30 years. He attended a parochial elementary school, Saint Barnabas, and then the Haverford School on Philadelphia's Main Line on a partial scholarship.
DiIulio rode three buses to get to the school, and when he did, he experienced "total culture shock." He didn't talk like the other boys, and he didn't dress like them, except for the regulation maroon and yellow tie. A serious weightlifter, he made friends mostly with the school jocks and with a Jewish doctor's son who, he says, was the first person he ever knew well "who wasn't Italian, Irish, Polish, or African-American." He also kept in close touch with his old friends from St. Barnabas. Today, it is these men and their families with whom he goes to DiNardo's restaurant in Old City for crabs and often shares holidays and vacations.
DiIulio never worked hard enough at Haverford to excel academically. No one in his family had ever gone to college, so higher education wasn't something he thought much about; in fact, he says, he was considering trying to get a construction job or maybe joining the Marines after graduation. His teachers suggested he apply to local schools like St. Joseph's or LaSalle or Villanova Universities. "But I decided that if I was going to go on to college, I'd like to go to the best place in town, and I'd heard that was Penn," DiIulio says. "Going away to school wasn't an option, and neither was living on campus."
Penn took him and gave him a scholarship. For four years, he commuted by trolley. He did construction work, too, after school, on weekends, and in the summer, as well as painting houses with the gang from St. Barnabas. He fitted in tutoring in West Philadelphia, and he began to put some real effort into his studies. He also found a mentor who persuaded him that knowledge might have a practical application. DiIulio describes Dr. Jack Nagel, professor of political science at Penn, as "demanding but kind." After taking an undergraduate course with him, he registered for one of Nagel's graduate seminars. Though only a sophomore, he received the highest grades in the class, according to his former teacher. Nagel says DiIulio had "an unusual combination of street smarts and developing sophistication." He describes his former student as "a diamond in the rough."
DiIulio had none of the ambivalence toward graduate school that he had had toward college. He says he was convinced "it was going to be a hell of a lot better than hanging off the fourth floor of somebody's 100-year-old Victorian and asking for the primer." Two books, Amateur Democrat and Varieties of Police Behavior, by James Q. Wilson, a leading social scientist then at Harvard, had impressed him greatly, so he decided he would like to study with Wilson.
Nagel encouraged him and Harvard awarded him a fellowship, so DiIulio married his Penn sweetheart, Rosalee Crasner, CGS'80, and the couple headed for Cambridge. Crasner took an MBA at Boston University, and she and DiIulio lived in Harvard's North House, where he served as head resident tutor. His dissertation was a comparative study of prison management. While he was visiting a third-tier cell block in nearby Walpole Prison, two inmates pushed DiIulio backwards over a rail and rocked him for several excruciating minutes before letting him go. DiIulio fell forward, picked up his notebook, and continued his investigation of correctional facilities in Texas, Michigan, and California.
DiIulio had one job interview after earning his doctorate in 1986. It was at Princeton, where he gave a talk, and the next day the late Donald E. Stokes, then dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, called to offer him an assistant professorship in politics and public affairs. It was an easy sell -- in part because Princeton was close to Philadelphia and put the DiIulios near their families and oldest friends. Continued...
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