Biography and History

Since its founding in 1979, the Program in Hellenic Studies at Princeton University has aimed to promote and support the teaching and study of Byzantine and modern Greek civilization. Drawing upon resources from many University departments, the program offers an interdisciplinary curriculum for undergraduates as well as opportunities in teaching and research at the graduate level. At the foundation of the Program in Hellenic Studies is a desire to teach modern Greek literature in the original language; however this academic pursuit is ultimately undertaken in the context of a broader curriculum which includes elements of history, archaeology, and philosophy.

Though the study of Greek was a core element of the curriculum at Princeton through much of the 18th and 19th centuries, it consistently remained under the umbrella of Classical Studies. Resurgence in the study of the Classics in the early 1970s brought with it a new awareness of modern Hellenism. As enrollment in the Department of Classics increased, so too did demand for courses in modern Greek language and literature.

The first attempt to maintain such a program began tentatively in 1974, with an anonymous donation from Greek shipping interests. The extent of the gift however was not large enough to maintain consistent offerings, and the initial experiment soon folded. It was largely through the efforts of Professor Edmund Keeley and Professor Richard Burgis (of the English and Slavic Languages and Literatures Departments, respectively) that courses in elementary Greek continued to be offered intermittently.

In 1979 Stanley J. Seeger, a graduate of the Class of 1952 who also earned a master of fine arts in music composition in 1956, made a gift of $2 million dollars to Princeton University for the endowment of the Stanley J. Seeger Hellenic Fund. The gift was believed to be the largest gift ever bestowed upon an American university for the study of classical and modern Greek.

The effects of the gift were seen almost immediately with courses in modern Greek offered by the Department of Classics in the fall of 1980 and the steady addition of other Hellenic courses in following semesters. The success of these initial courses as well as the growth of the Seeger Fund endowment throughout the early 1980s led to the formation of the Committee on Hellenic Studies in 1986, and the approval of a dedicated undergraduate curriculum in Hellenic Studies that same year. The newly initiated curriculum permitted students to supplement the main Hellenic Studies courses in the Department of Classics with selections from the Departments of Art and Archaeology, Comparative Literature, History, Philosophy, and Religion to name a few. A flurry of activity on the part of the Committee followed including the hiring of tenure-track faculty, concerts and other Greek-oriented cultural programs, and a partnership with the Princeton University Press for the publication of a series of books in modern Greek studies. Finally in January 1989, the faculty voted to give "program" status to the Hellenic Studies curriculum to offer a certificate which allowed undergraduates to supplement their major with Hellenic-related courses from throughout the University.

The consistent backing of the Seeger Fund has also enabled the Program in Hellenic Studies to offer a number of fellowships every semester to undergraduate and graduate students with research interests that include Hellenic culture. These include the Seeger Summer Fellowship program, which is open to faculty and students who propose to study, work, excavate, or undertake research in Greece. Other fellowships are offered to visiting scholars for post-doctoral research and to undergraduate students from Greece. Also, a mid-career fellowship for Greek-policy makers and civil servants was established in conjunction with the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

The Program in Hellenic Studies is overseen by an Executive Committee on Hellenic Studies, an interdisciplinary group comprised of associated faculty who are responsible for establishing curriculum and for organizing cultural activities andother offerings. Though the members of the committee and the faculty have changed frequently to match new courses and research interests, several individuals have emerged as leaders in the program and in the field of Hellenic Studies. Notable among these are the aforementioned Edward Keeley (English), Alexander Nehamas (Philosopy, Comparative Literature), and Slobodan Ćurčić (Art and Archaeology), all of whom have served as the Director of the Program in Hellenic Studies at one time, and Dimitri Gondicas (Classics), who has held the position of Executive Director since the program's founding.

Source: From the finding aid for AC207

  • Program in Hellenic Studies Records. 1979-2013 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC207

    Since its founding in 1979, the Program in Hellenic Studies at Princeton University has aimed to promote and support the teaching and study of Byzantine and modern Greek civilization. The Program in Hellenic Studies Records document the academic and cultural offerings sponsored by the Program. The offerings include lectures, discussions, and colloquia led by faculty, fellows and visiting scholars, as well as concerts, exhibitions, and film screenings. The records also include annual reports of activities, lists of fellows, and related materials.

  • Program in Hellenic Studies Records. 1979-2013 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC207

    Since its founding in 1979, the Program in Hellenic Studies at Princeton University has aimed to promote and support the teaching and study of Byzantine and modern Greek civilization. The Program in Hellenic Studies Records document the academic and cultural offerings sponsored by the Program. The offerings include lectures, discussions, and colloquia led by faculty, fellows and visiting scholars, as well as concerts, exhibitions, and film screenings. The records also include annual reports of activities, lists of fellows, and related materials.