The Next Generation of Hellenic Scholars Have a New Place to Call Home

JAN-FEB 2017|BY JAMIE SAXON, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE
Princeton Opens New Hellenic Center in Athens, Its First Research Center Abroad

President Christopher L. Eisgruber (second from right) leads the ribbon cutting at the Nov. 1 opening reception for the new Princeton University Athens Center for Research and Hellenic Studies with, from left, Seeger Trustee Mary O’ Boyle; Christopher Cone, chair of the Seeger Board of Trustees; Dimitri Gondicas, founding director of Princeton’s Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies; and Seeger Trustee Shirley M. Tilghman, emerita president of the University and professor of molecular biology and public affairs.

Princeton University’s deep tradition in the humanities has long been connected to Greece and Hellenic culture, from antiquity to the present. And the university has now added a formal home base for Princeton scholars in Greece with the opening of the Princeton University Athens Center for Research and Hellenic Studies.

Three years in the planning, the center is led by the University’s Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies. Every year, the Center supports more than 100 Princetonians for study and research in Greece.

The center — located in a 1930s-era townhouse in downtown Athens — features conference facilities, a seminar room, offices, study spaces, informal common areas and a terrace with a view of the Parthenon in the distance. Situated down the street from Aristotle’s Lyceum in a historic, diverse neighborhood, the center is close to libraries, museums and archaeological sites.

“An academic home in Greece embodies some of the key goals of the Stanley J. Seeger Hellenic Fund, established in 1979,” said Dimitri Gondicas, founding director of the Seeger Center. “Creating the Princeton Athens Center was consistent with the vision of our benefactor, Stanley J. Seeger, whose legendary generosity made it possible for Princeton to be a world leader in Hellenic studies.”

Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony opening the new Athens research center and greeting the 55 guests that included faculty, students, friends, and more than 30 undergraduate and graduate alumni.

“This is the first time Princeton University has opened a research and scholarship center anywhere outside of the United States,” said Eisgruber.

One of the reasons the university chose to establish the center in Athens “as we become a more international university”, Eisgruber said, is Princeton’s “extraordinary humanistic tradition that finds its home here in Athens and in Greece.”

Learning from the Hellenic world

The Athens center will host scholars across disciplines, underscoring the diverse and varied contributions of Hellenic culture to the humanities.

Among the guests in Greece for the opening festivities were 11 Princeton sophomores who had taken the year-long Humanities Sequence their freshman year. First-year students who have completed the course may apply to travel to Greece or Rome during fall break of their sophomore year, fully funded by the university.

In partnership with Hellenic studies, Princeton’s Council of the Humanities hosts faculty-led trips to Greece and organized the university’s first journalism seminar abroad last summer, called “Reporting on the Front Lines of History — in Greece.”

Christian Wildberg, a professor of classics and director of the Program in Hellenic Studies, last summer taught visiting scholars a seminar on “Culture and Counterculture in Ancient Athens,” crosslisted in classics and Hellenic studies. He said he was astonished at how much students can accomplish in Greece in just six weeks.

“The most amazing thing was the final papers that my students submitted a few weeks after returning from Athens,” Wildberg said. “Topics ranged from mythology and pre-Socratic philosophy… and ended with discussions of the rise of Christianity. Reading those papers in all their fascinating diversity was almost as much of a tour de force as the seminar itself.”

Princeton students at the Lions Gate at Mycenae

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