Occupying for its first decade an apartment close to the Spanish Steps, Colin introduced students to the wonders of Rome and Italy, drawing upon his remarkable circle of friends who included Federico Fellini and Antonio Moravia.
David Colin was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1912. He first came to Italy as a reporter for NBC in 1940. Instantly immersing himself in the language and culture, he began a lifelong relationship with Rome. In 1941 he returned to the USA and joined the army, seeing action in North Africa before he was captured by the Afrika Korps. Legend has it that he was in the OSS (the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the CIA), serving behind enemy lines. After more than two years in a prisoner of war camp, he was repatriated to the USA. A member of the “Greatest Generation”, he worked in business, for a time being closely connected with the Italian company Olivetti, before he decided to found AUR.
David Colin retired in 1979 to Los Angeles and passed away in 1992, to be buried in the Protestant Cemetery at Rome. All remember him as an energetic, free-thinking man who made lasting friendships easily, and imbued the American University of Rome with a spirit of internationalism.
David Colin, the man whose ideas and efforts would lead to the creation of The American University of Rome, was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1912, along with a cohort of men and women that Tom Brokaw would later dub “The Greatest Generation”, because of the unique moment in history where the post-war western world would be formed.
This generation was fashioned by their experience growing up during the Great Depression and having participated in World War II. Due to those events they have come to be known as a fiercely motivated, adventurous, determined and, pioneering generation. Colin was no exception. Bolstered by his own very charismatic nature, he came to Italy in the thirties as a young journalist working for NBC, immersing himself in a new language and culture and falling in love with the country almost instantly
Like many of his time, Colin found himself participating in the war. Drafted into the military as a private in 1942, he was later stationed in northern Africa where he served as a sergeant in the newly formed Office of Strategic Services (precursors to today's CIA). In 1944 he was captured and served the remaining portion of the war as a Prisoner of War (POW) in Germany. Records indicate that during his capture Colin spent a part of his time in Germany’s largest POW camp, Stalag 7a, near Moosberg, in southern Bavaria. Later he was taken to a camp in Torgau, Germany a town now famous for the historical moment when American Allied forces and the Soviet Red Army linked up at the Elbe River on April 25, 1945 an event which lead to the liberation of the camp near Torgau and Colin’s release. Soon after being released, he was repatriated to Miami, but quickly yearned to return to Italy. After leaving the military with the rank of staff sergeant, he returned to Rome in the 1960’s.
The 60s were a time flowing with remarkable energy throughout the western world As American students and professors began to visit Rome, Colin was instrumental in fostering cultural exchange between young Americans and their Italian counterparts. Over the years, informal evening discussions between professors and students at his home grew into more formal lectures, organized discussions, and classes. Although he left schooling without earning a degree, his experiences during the hard times in the early twentieth century instilled in him a great love and respect for education, and with the support and assistance of many friends and contacts around Rome, in 1969 he founded The American University of Rome.
After serving as AUR’s President from its founding until 1977, Colin later lived in California, often visiting Rome, before passing away in 1992. He is buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Testaccio.