Carpenter to the Pope: Glenn Palmieri '03

Glenn Palmieri ’03 hand-crafts a throne for the pope’s visit to New York. by George Sapio

It was April 16, just three days before Pope Benedict was to hold a youth rally in Yonkers. Woodworker Glenn Palmieri ’03 had already spent almost three weeks constructing a seven-foot-high papal throne for the pontiff to occupy at the event. When he walked into work that morning at Renovata Studios in Port Chester, New York, Glenn found on his desk a set of plans for a lectern and a note that read, “You cannot leave before this is built!”

The organizers apparently hadn’t realized until the last 48 hours that they needed a lectern, and Glenn was left with the daunting task of building it in time for the papal visit. “I worked almost 14 hours straight to finish it,” Glenn says. “I’m just glad I came out of it with all my fingers intact.”

The one-time sports information and communication major kept his digits, which he needs not only for his full-time job at Renovata, but also to do the fine furniture design and joinery work for which he and his father, health and physical education graduate Ernest Palmieri ’71, are known. In their home-based business, Palmieri Woodworks, they create designer furniture and build it exclusively by joinery, using exacting traditional techniques such as dovetailing and mortise and tenon. “A lot of people don’t readily understand that things can be built this way, or how they can stay together,” Glenn says. “They expect to see screws or nails.”

Ithaca College is also a Palmieri tradition. Besides Glenn and Ernest, Glenn’s uncle on his mother’s side, David Brown ’82, studied liberal arts, and his younger brother, Reid ’06, majored in business administration. Glenn first met his wife, Lisa Castillo ’04, an athletic training major, in the training room at IC; she is now an athletic trainer and lacrosse coach at Brewster High School.

After his graduation, Glenn took a job as a sports marketer with Dover Motorsports in Dover, Delaware. “But I couldn’t sit still,” he says. “I just had to do something with my hands and be physically active.” He moved to Chicago for an intense one-year apprenticeship with the Bauhaus Academy, specializing in solid wood furniture doweling techniques (building without nails or screws). After the apprenticeship he returned to New York and showed his portfolio to Renovata, who hired him on the spot.

Glenn and his father, who is head of the physical education program at the State University of New York College at Purchase, had started Palmieri Woodworking before Glenn’s Chicago apprenticeship. They decided to augment their typical contracting jobs with more and more special-design work, creating pieces on their own and showing them at woodworking conventions. “I liked being in a shop creating specialty pieces rather than at a job site,” Glenn says. “It’s much more interesting to build things that require more than the usual precision and imagination.”

Glenn and Ernest share the creative process. “We each have our own shop area,” explains Glenn, “and we play off of each other a lot. It’s a great relationship, with a lot of give-and-take. I’m happy to go to work because every day I’m building something completely different. I’ve never built the same thing twice.”

Even though he constructed the papal throne, Glenn did not get to meet its occupant. He did, however, watch television as Pope Benedict delivered his speech and then sat in the throne Glenn had personally made for him.

“I was excited,” Glenn smiles, and tosses off a comment that evinces his sports communication background: “I had my hands in the air as if I’d scored a touchdown.”