“If a Jesuit should prove not to know Latin we’d better shut our doors!”: Catholic Clergy at the ASCSA, Pt. I

Posted by Dylan Rogers

Dylan Rogers holds a PhD from the University of Virginia, and he has been Assistant Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens since 2015. The essay he contributes to “From the Archivist’s Notebook” was inspired by recent research in the ASCSA Archives about the Summer Session program.


Fr. Raymond Schoder, S.J. (1916-1987)

Last summer, I began researching the life of Professor Gertrude Smith at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or School), particularly in her role as Chairman of the Committee on Admissions and Fellowships. (On Smith see D. Rogers, “Gertrude Smith: A Classic American Philhellene.“) Smith guided the selection process of students during the Academic Year and the Summer Session (SS) deftly for nearly 20 years (1945-1963). Delving into her correspondence with various people associated with the School, I was struck by one letter in particular, as she was discussing Fr. Raymond Schoder, S.J. (1916-1987), and his desire to be a SS Director at the School in 1961:

I wonder with him just what the Roman Catholic situation would be. Don’t think I have anything against the R.C.’s. I haven’t, but I do not want the summer session turned into an adjunct of the church, and, if he once does the school, I foresee an avalanche for that particular summer of applicants for that particular summer of applicants from people who have used his dratted Homeric Greek books and who will be urged by their priest or nun teachers to take the session when they can have it under his guidance. In the two sessions which I have done I have had each time four or five Roman Catholics, but I could usually control that and get them meatless meals when they had to have them and get them to places where they could get to church on time and so on. But we do not want the summer session dependent of the Roman Catholic church, and I think it might be if Father S. were leading around people, the majority of whom were R.C.’s. (ASCSA ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 3, 26 October 1960)

Did this mean that the School, as a whole, had a bias against Roman Catholics? Certainly this would not be unheard of in American academic circles. Even as late as 1977, Catholic priests were still noticing a bias in academia, which stemmed from deep-roots in America against Catholics (particularly immigrants from Catholic countries of Europe, creating a so-called nativism, or bias, in society). Fr. Andrew Greeley noted that people often told him not to wear his collar, or he would not be taken as serious as his lay counterparts. Indeed, he questioned:

Is the nativism in education conscious or unconscious? I suppose the best answer is that it doesn’t matter. Those who ask, Isn’t Catholicism incompatible with independent intellectual activity? might as well be asking, Isn’t it true that blacks have a distinctive body odor? Or, Isn’t it true women are happier at home raising children? The person who asks the question is prejudiced whether or not he knows it. (Greeley 1977, 43)

Further, the School has been noted for occasionally making less-than-polite comments about religious groups outside of Protestantism, particularly Judaism. In correspondence in the early twentieth century, if an applicant was Jewish, oftentimes that was noted in their files (See J. L. Davis, “A Preamble to the Nazi Holocaust in Greece: Two Micro-Histories from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.”) While this did not hinder students and scholars of Jewish origin from coming to the School, it is disconcerting to a modern academic audience that such issues would indeed be brought up.

So I began to go back through the Archives to see if there were any anti-Catholic tendencies in the School’s past, as Smith’s letter of 1960 had the potential to suggest. What I did find was a fascinating history of Catholic religious figures (of both genders) coming to the School as students and scholars and flourishing. Almost from the beginning of the School’s foundation in 1881, Catholic clergy had been part of our history, with the first Catholic priest in 1887-1889, Fr. Daniel Quinn.

Fr. Daniel Quinn: An Overt Philhellene

Daniel Quinn (1861-1918) completed his A.B. and M.A. at Mount St. Mary’s College (Maryland) in 1883 and 1886 respectively. Fr. Quinn would then go to the ASCSA as a student from 1887-1889. At the School, he was reported to be one of the students that excelled in learning Modern Greek, while focusing on Greek philology, including research on topographical elements important in Greek mythology, such as the hills of the Aegiplanctus and the Arachneum (Annual Reports 7 (1887-1888), pp. 8 and 43-45; 8 (1888-1889), pp. 38-39). After two years in Athens, Fr. Quinn returned to the US, where he was subsequently appointed as a Professor of Greek at the newly established Catholic University of America in 1891. As was the custom in America at the time, Fr. Quinn was sent back to Europe to complete his PhD, working at the University of Berlin (1891-1892), and finishing his studies at the University of Athens in 1893 (Klingshirn 2016). Fr. Quinn’s dissertation was written in Modern Greek, and the subject of which was based on Christian epigraphy in Greece, evident in later articles he published (Quinn 1902).

Fr. Daniel Quinn. Photo: Catholic University of America, Archives.

Upon completion of his dissertation, Fr. Quinn returned to Catholic University, where he began to build up the Department of Greek and Latin. Around that time, he helped to establish the Washington Society of the Archaeological Institute of America (Klingshirn 2016). And it was clear that his love of Greece, especially its history and language, was a prominent part of his teaching at Catholic: “An overt philhellene, Quinn’s zeal was manifested in his spelling habits (Keramics, Mykenaean, Sophokles) and in his Academy of Hellenic Studies, which students were eligible to join upon completion of a thesis of four thousand words, written in Greek or Latin. In 1895-96, Academy discussions (to take place in Greek!) centered on Aristophanes’ Acharnians and Sophocles’ Antigone, and were reported in the quarterly in-house journal Deltion” (Klingshirn 2016).

Quinn continued at Catholic University until 1897, when he resigned his position, “dissatisfied with the University’s level of support for Greek studies” (Klingshirn 2016). In all likelihood, Fr. Quinn quit his post, because the university would not hire his brother as an instructor of Greek, despite the fact that there were only three students at the time (Nuesse 1990, 112). In a letter to John Gennadius of 27 December 1897, Fr. Quinn informed him of these new developments: “Since the time of my last writing to you I have undergone a number of changes of circumstances; I have resigned my professorship at the University, forced to do so by motives that appealed to my sense of duty and honor. This step brings with it a number of temporary loses; and I must begin life anew. I leave America for Greece early in February. There I shall study everything that pertains to Hellenism. I shall be among friends, I am sure” (Joannes Gennadius Papers, Box 10.3, Folder 3).

Indeed, it seems that Fr. Quinn made it back to Athens. There he continued to work on his studies of the Greek language, including a number of articles that appeared in American magazines—and later collected in a volume aptly titled, Helladian Vistas (Quinn 1908). From 1900-1902, Quinn was again a member of the ASCSA. In 1902, he was appointed the rector of the Leonteion (Lycée Léonin/Λεόντειο Λύκειο), on 4 Sina Street, which was originally established by Pope Leo XIII as a secondary school for children of Catholic parents in Greece and later acted as a Catholic seminary for Catholic priests of the Greek East (Quinn 1907; Quinn 1908, 40). (The Leonteion continues to operate today, in a different location, as a Marist Roman Catholic School, which has taught numerous Greeks, including the late Greek Orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos and the composer Vangelis.) Fr. Quinn returned to his birthplace of Yellow Springs, Ohio, where he became the pastor of St. Paul’s Church there, in addition to being a professor at Antioch College there, until his death in 1918.

Lycée Léonin on 4 Sina. The building no longer exists. (See a wonderful video by Dimitris Tsalkanis here.)

It is apparent that Fr. Quinn was able to learn Modern Greek with ease and facility, given his background in classical languages. And this must have been case with a number of other students of the ASCSA in the 19th century, when Katharevousa (a form of Modern Greek developed in the 19th century as a cross between ancient Greek and Demotic Greek, and often spoken in literary and scholarly circles) was flourishing. Indeed, Fr. Quinn remarked that:

The stranger will find that if he is able to speak classical Greek he can, by using modern pronunciation, converse with any scholar in Greece. He will discover that Sokrates and Demosthenes would be understood by the literati who to-day frequent the club rooms of the Parnassos. (Quinn 1895, 70)

With his training as a scholar of Classical Greek and Modern Greek, Fr. Quinn was aptly in a place to write on the state of the Greek language at the turn of the 20th century. In 1901, in the US Bureau of Education’s “Report of the Commissioner of Education for 1899-1900,” Fr. Quinn, tracing the historic development of the Greek language, analyzed the “diglossy” phenomenon of the language, where both Katharevousa and Demotic Greek were spoken by the same people. Fr. Quinn, in his conclusion, stated that the rise of the Demotic was “a sign of the decay of the historical national consciousness and a bad omen for the future,” but the “Philhellene will always be glad to learn that [the Greeks] take a high and noble care of their historic tongue, and that they do not intend to let it wither itself out into a few interesting glossematic dialects” (Quinn 1901, 1319). I wonder what Fr. Quinn would think of the adoption in 1976 of Demotic as the national language of Greece, and the further abolition of the polytonic system in 1982.

“The soul is Hellenic”: On the Greek Education System

Because Fr. Quinn attended the University of Athens, attending lectures in Greek and writing a dissertation in Greek, he was familiar with the Greek education system. In a long article for the US Bureau of Education, Fr. Quinn traced the development of the Greek education system from its ancient origins until his time, particularly with the rise of the university system in Greece after the Greek War of Independence (Quinn 1898). In addition to using his own experiences at the University of Athens (and presumably discussing issues with his faculty), Fr. Quinn corresponded with Greeks who had ties to the education system of the time. One example is how Fr. Quinn reached out to John Gennadius, the Greek diplomat living in London and later would give his own personal library to the ASCSA, about Gennadius’ father, George Gennadius (George Gennadius Papers, Box 10.3, Folder 3). In their correspondence of 1897, John Gennadius provided Fr. Quinn with a concise biography of his father. Fr. Quinn would then later include it in his report, highlighting the fact that George Gennadius was instrumental through his own teaching in instilling in Greek youths of the early to mid-19th century a sense of patriotism for Greece (Quinn 1898, 290-291, 309, 332).

Excerpt of letter from Quinn to John Gennadius, Sept. 13, 1897. Photo: ASCSA Archives.

Fr. Quinn’s discussion of the Greek education system, especially after the independence of Greece from the Ottomans in the 1830s, illustrates how Greece at the time was at a crossroads, particularly in how they were going to build their new nation and educate its inhabitants. Indeed, early on in his discussion, he prompts readers that they will think that the education system has foreign influences, but is unique: “the outward form of modern Greek education is German and French in character, but the soul is Hellenic” (Quinn 1898, 267). A true philhellene himself, the text is full of various admirations of Greece and its people, in addition to its growing commitment to education. For example, in discussing education in the last years of Ottoman rule, Fr. Quinn describes the situation of the Parthenon:

Yea, within the very Parthenon itself a school was opened in the year 1824 for little tots of girls whose fathers were fighting the war of freedom. We love the Parthenon for its beauty; but it is more worthy of being loved on account of having been a shelter to education than because of being the Parthenon. (Quinn 1898, 295.)

Fr. Quinn, the product of higher education system in at least three different countries, was truly a proponent of the importance of education, particularly in the humanities. In his 1898 report on education, Fr. Quinn pardoned the famous Greek general of the War of Independence, Theodoros Kolokotronis: “Old Kolokotrones said on a certain important occasion that ‘books could not be used for better purposes than for gun wads.’ We forgive him, because Kolokotrones’s gunshots were intended to protect home and altar” (Quinn 1898, 295). But more broadly, Fr. Quinn argued in 1896 that higher education, especially from his viewpoint in the US, was to publicly educate a populace to help train new leaders. And the bedrock of such an education was the humanist tradition, and he still regarded “the philosophic and classic studies, which have created the modern university, as the studies best suited to remain its centre” (Quinn 1896, 21). Thus, with classics at the core of public education, we could build a society that was well equipped to better itself.

Fr. Quinn evidently loved practically every aspect of Greece, which began with his early education in Greek and Latin. And the ASCSA was Fr. Quinn’s entrée into the world of Athens and Greece—a point he never forgot. In his 1898 report on education, while he mentions the other foreign archaeological schools of the time, he naturally spent more time describing the mission of the ASCSA, as:

American archaeological or classical students and scholars visiting Athens have found at the foot of the southeast slope of Lykabettos an institution that they may take just pride in. They find there an excellent library, adapted especially for the study of the art, topography, epigraphy, language, and literature of Ancient Greece. They find a small knot of young, enthusiastic men, who find highest delight in delving, now by book and now by spade, into the marvelous life of the people which has been the civilizers of the world. (Quinn 1898, 336.)

ASCSA Library, 1902

As one of the first prominent example of the Catholic clergy, Fr. Quinn could have been the exception to the rule, as Smith’s invective at the beginning was quite harsh against Roman Catholics at the School. But we will delve further into this problem in next month’s post, and offer a resolution…


Author’s Note

I would like to thank Eleftheria Daleziou of the Gennadius Library Archives for helping me with documents related to the Gennadius family—and her willingness to reach out to other archival institutions in Athens on my behalf. Further, I must thank Shane MacDonald of the Catholic University of America’s Archives for providing a photograph of Fr. Quinn in their Photographic Collections. And, finally, I thank Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan for always supporting my intellectual journeys in the Archives of the ASCSA.


Works Cited

Greeley, A.M. 1977. “Anti-Catholicism in the Academy.” Change 9.6: 40-43.
Klingshirn, W.E. 2016, 3 October. “Early History of the Department, 1891-1918.” The Catholic University of America, Department of Greek and Latin. http://greeklatin.cua.edu/about/earlyhistory.cfm
Nuesse, C.J. 1990. The Catholic University of America: A Centennial History. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press.
Quinn, D. 1895. “The American School at Athens.” Catholic University Bulletin 1: 65-72.
Quinn, D. 1896. “The Duty of Higher Education in Our Times.” Transactions of the American Social Science Association 34: 15-28.
Quinn, D. 1898. “Chapter VIII—Education in Greece.” Report of the Commissioner of Education for the Year 1896-97 Vol. 1: 267-348. Washington,    D.C.: Government Printing Press.
Quinn, D. 1901. “Chapter XXIII: The Language Question in Greece and Some Reflections Suggested By It.” Report of the Commissioner of Education for 1899-1900 Vol. 2: 1297-1319. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Press.
Quinn, D. 1902. “Των τελευταίων αιώνων επιγραφαί Ζακυνθιακαί.” Αρμονία 553-600.
Quinn, D. 1907. “Modern Diocese of Athens.” In The Catholic Encyclopedia, edited by C.G. Herbermann, Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
Quinn, D. 1908. Helladian Vistas. Yellow Springs, OH.


FULBRIGHTING IN POST-WW II GREECE (1952-1953)

The Surplus Property Act of 1944 was an act of the U.S. Congress which allowed the Secretary of State to enter into agreements with the governments of foreign countries for the disposal of surplus American property (mostly WW II scrap) abroad. The Fulbright Act, as it is better known today, became a pioneering platform for educational exchanges between the U.S. and a large number of countries, thanks to an amendment introduced by a young Democratic Senator from Arkansas, J. William Fulbright, in 1945. The amendment allowed the sale of surplus property (e.g., airplanes and their spare parts, arms and ammunition) to foreign countries in exchange for “intangible benefits.” One of those benefits, at the insistence of Senator Fulbright, who had been a Rhodes Scholar as a young man, involved the international exchange of scholars. Since foreign governments did not have enough dollars to pay for the purchase of surplus material, the Act allowed them to use their local currencies to pay the expenses of American scholars studying in those countries.  Fulbright strongly believed in the transformative value of educational exchanges, that they could “play a major role in helping to break down mutual misunderstandings,” and contribute to world peace. On August 1, 1946, President Truman signed the Fulbright bill into law.

Graveyard of American jeeps after WW II

Senator Fulbright

The first European country to sign the Fulbright Agreement was Greece, on April 23, 1948.  The American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School herefafter) with its superb reputation, was one of the immediate beneficiaries of the bi-national agreement. The School claimed that it was the only place of higher learning where American students could apply for research grants to carry out advanced work in classics and archaeology. “It is of course possible for Americans to enroll in the School of Liberal Arts in the University of Athens; but the lecture courses are largely theoretical, library and other facilities are sadly inadequate, and the language problem constitutes a difficult hurdle” argued archaeologist Carl W. Blegen to Gordon T. Bowles of the Conference Board of Associated Research Councils on September 15, 1948 (AdmRec 705/1, folder 1). Blegen, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Cincinnati, had been appointed as Director of the American School for a year (1948-1949). Having served the interests of the School for a long time, Blegen naturally cared first and foremost for the institution’s well-being. Blegen and others, such as Homer A. Thompson, Director of the Athenian Agora Excavations, saw in the Fulbright Act a new source of income to finance the School’s operations and, especially, the research that was carried out in the Athenian Agora. I have written elsewhere about the curious entanglement of the American School with the Fulbright Foundation in the early years of the program’s implementation, and I will be talking more about it on November 30th at Cotsen Hall in a joint event organized by the ASCSA and the Fulbright Foundation on the occasion of its 70th anniversary.

ASCSA students including Fulbrighters at Ancient Corinth, Nov. 1951. ASCSA Archives, Matthew Wiencke Collection.

Blegen’s Pet Project

Here I focus on a little known and otherwise forgotten component of the Fulbright Program in Greece. In addition to awards for research fellows, junior scholars, and high school students and teachers, the agreement included a number of Visiting Lectureships at Greek institutions of higher learning. For the fiscal year 1949-1950, the Greek government in agreement with the United States Educational Foundation of Greece (as the Fulbright Foundation was known in its early years) advertised three positions: two in Home Economics and Rural Sociology at the Superior School of Agriculture, and one in American Life and Civilization at the University of Athens. It is the latter I am more interested in since Carl Blegen was involved in its establishment, sometime around 1945-1946, when he served as Cultural Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Athens. The position, however, had not yet been filled for financial reasons. In the fall of 1948 the time was ripe. Blegen had just  began the academic year as Director of the American School, his close friend and former colleague in the Office of Strategic Services, archaeologist Alison Frantz, was the Cultural Attaché at the American Embassy, and his other friend, archaeologist George Oikonomos, had been appointed Rector of the University of Athens for 1948-1949.

Carl W. Blegen, 1956. ASCSA Archives, Homer A. Thompson Papers

“An auspicious start can certainly be made in the University of Athens, and as you may recall, this is a pet project of mine. A chair of American History, Life and Culture was established by law in the University of Athens two or three years ago. It is still vacant because of lack of funds, and here I believe we have a great opportunity. The University is eager to have a professor appointed and has made a formal application to U.S.E.F.G.,” Blegen commented in his letter to Bowles. He envisioned the Chair being occupied by a “distinguished scholar, one of the most outstanding we have to offer… A succession of such men in difficult branches of learning would surely have a great success here and could do much to promote cultural relations between Greece and the United States.” In fact, the person whom Blegen proposed as the first occupant of the position was a big-time supporter of the American School and his former “boss” at the Embassy in Athens, Ambassador Lincoln MacVeagh. The latter after years of continuous service in Greece had been transferred, against his wishes, to Lisbon. This proposal, however, never got off the ground, probably because MacVeagh could not leave his post in Portugal.

The Whitbridge family with Homer Thompson (white hat) at the Stoa of Attalos (before its reconstruction), 1951. ASCSA Archives, Homer A. Thompson Papers.

After several delays, Arnold Whitridge, a distinguished professor of history at Yale University, was finally appointed as the first Chair of American Civilization at Athens University in the fall of 1949, a position he held until 1951. There are a few clues hinting that Whitridge may have been recommended by MacVeagh. Mrs. Arnold Whitridge appears on the list of donors who contributed to the restoration of the Lion of Amphipolis in the 1930s, MacVeagh’s own pet project. (I spotted her name in a footnote in Betsey Robinson’s article “Hydraulic Euergetism: American Archaeology and Waterworks in Early-20th-century Greece,” Hesperia, Special Issue 2013, pp. 101-130. A version of it was published in From the Archivist’s Notebook, Sept. 1, 2014).

George Rippey Stewart’s Experience

One can follow the history, duration, as well as the name of recipients of the American History and Literature lectureship on the webpage of the Fulbright Foundation in Greece. The program continued into the late 1960s. A quick search of the profiles of the first lecturers reveals that they were highly accomplished academics in the field of American History and Literature. Fortunately, one of them, George Rippey Stewart (1895-1980), Professor of English at Berkeley, wrote a memoir of his experience as a Fulbrighter in post-war Greece (1952-1953) in an informative but also highly entertaining essay, “Fulbrighting in Athens,” published in Harper’s Magazine, in October 1953. (A typescript copy is included in the School’s Archives.)  A prolific writer, Stewart is remembered today for scholarly works such as Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States (1945; reprinted 2008) but also for a science fiction novel Earth Abides (1949) which served as an inspiration for Stephen King’s The Strand. I also read in the Wikipedia entry for Stewart that his novel Storm (1941) prompted the National Weather Service to use personal names to designate storms.

As Blegen had anticipated, language was the biggest problem in teaching at a Greek University which then did not have an English Department and where the majority of the students and faculty spoke and wrote in French as a second language. For his meetings with the Dean of the Liberal Arts School (Φιλοσοφική), Stewart needed the services of a translator.

“Almost immediately I discovered that most of the students did not know English well enough to do much reading in literature. I therefore decided to emphasize the ‘civilization’ rather than the ‘literature’ of my double-barreled title, and was thus put into the paradoxical position of trying to teach civilization to the Athenians,” scribbled Stewart with a sense of humor.

Stewart found the Greek students, men and women, delightful and attentive although from time to time “the whole class would break into floods of an unintelligible tongue” for the sake of an argument. He admitted that the language problem was a difficult one since “students had learned English by all sort of means, one of them merely by listening to radio broadcasts from London.” They also had a hard time with his American accent. In addition to teaching, Stewart as a good Fulbrighter, invested time in fostering good relations with the students. He describes fondly Sunday afternoons at his house, he and his wife eating, drinking, and singing with the Greek students (to the students’ surprise since they never got to socialize with their Greek professors). “In Greece the continental tradition holds, and a professor is a thing apart from and above his students.” (I have to say that this tradition held until my time in the early 1980s.)

“Scratch a cultural activity, and find a Fulbrighter”

Stewart was one of the six American lecturers for 1952-1953, four at the University of Athens and the Superior School of Agriculture and two at the University of Thessaloniki. There were three Research Fellows, one of whom, the numismatist Sydney P. Noe, studied ancient coinage at the Athenian Agora Excavations. The second Research Fellow was Theodore Saloutos, whose book The Greeks in the United States (1964) still remains a cornerstone in transatlantic migration studies. The third fellow, a New Testament scholar, Ernest W. Saunders spent considerable time on Mount Athos microfilming Armenian, Greek, Arabic, Georgian, and Syriac manuscripts for the Library of Congress. But the real “workforce” of the Fulbright program were thirty other Americans serving primarily as teachers in secondary education, not just in U.S. oriented schools in Greece (e.g., Pierce or Anatolia College) but also in the public-school system. To Stewart, “sending American secondary-school teachers to the gymnasia in various smaller Greek cities was a bold experiment and might have well failed… There was a very good chance that a young American suddenly isolated in such an environment simply could not take it. But, on the whole, the program turned out to be a brilliant success.”

George R. Stewart’s novel Earth Abides

When Stewart was asked by the U.S. Cultural Attaché in Athens to go on a lecture tour in various Greek towns, he opted not to lecture about America’s greatness, as one might have expected at this point in the intellectual Cold Wars, but about “The Influence of Greece upon the United States.” His tour included cities such as Patras and Pyrgos, Rhodes, Kavala, and Thessaloniki. For his lectures he prepared two manuscripts, one in Greek and one in English. Where he could secure the services of an interpreter he read in English “presenting a paragraph or two, and then pausing while the Greek interpreter read from his text.” The few times he had to read in Greek he “expended a great deal of toil and sweat.” One Greek-American friend complimented his effort by telling him “I understood every word you said, and sometimes it sounded like Greek.” (Greek is not an easy language and I have seen American friends, including my husband Tom Brogan, and colleagues struggle in their admirable efforts to deliver long academic lectures in Greek.)

“In retrospect, I have decided the lectures served a good purpose. Whether, considered as high-level propaganda, they helped to prevent anyone’s conversion to communism or to aid his reconversion” concluded Stewart with a touch of wit. Stewart was proud of his and other Fulbrighters’ efforts to reach out to non-Athenian audiences because it showed that “the United States is interested in other things than the purely material ones.” His comment reflected Western European perceptions about American culture: a highly materialistic and wasteland consumer culture without tradition (the Germans used the word “Unkultur” to describe it).

Greek authors Elias Venezis and George Theotokas who visited America, within the Smith-Mundt Act framework, in 1949 and 1952, respectively, wrote about this very materialistic, “time is money” aspect of the American culture. After having visited the assembly-lines of the Ford plantation Venezis concluded, “I myself would have to work to be able to say what transformation into an automaton does to a man’s soul.” Where Venezis wondered and wanted to put himself to the test, Theotokas reckoned that coordination, stability and precision of organization saves a lot of effort. For Theotokas, only “large-scale industrial mass production” would lead the masses “to rise to the highest possible living standard” and “offer to each of its members the goods that will allow him to be ransomed from the depression and agony of material want and to live with humanity, in hygienic conditions, with dignity, and, above all, with enjoyment.” [See also “A Greek Author Travels to the Country of the New Myth: The Voyage of Elias Venezis to America in 1949.”]

AWOPs (a.k.a. Americans Without Privileges)

George R. Stewart

In the last part of his essay Stewart feels compelled to compare the Fulbrighters with the “other” Americans who flocked to post-war Greece as members of various missions, such as AMAG or CARE. Despite the good these missions had done, they had also “piled up a stupendous debit of bad personal feeling” and treated local people as “natives.” His vivid description of the secluded life of the American colony in Athens is worth repeating: “American colonies have fenced themselves in with invisible wire –ridden in their own buses, bought at the PX, eaten in their own restaurants, sent their children to American schools, learned not a word of the language of the country, gathered in their own clubs.” By contrast, the Fulbrighters, because of the terms of their appointment, were paid in drachmas and could not use the Army Post Office or the PX or the Mission buses, or enjoy any other such privileges. Also by nature, the Fulbrighters being scholars and teachers were “trained to respect other people’s points of view,” their customs and history.

Having heard and read much (and recent) scholarship about the larger, hidden, and propagandistic agenda of American foundations or groups abroad, such as the Ford Foundation or the Congress for Cultural Freedom, especially during the Cold War, I subscribe to Stewart’s sound and still valid interpretation of the individual Fulbrighter’s mission:

“If you ask various Fulbrighters why they are on their jobs, you will get various answers. Those on research appointments can simply say they are doing their own research and are essentially working in line with their own careers. The teachers will most likely say they want the experience of living and working abroad… that they enjoy learning about a foreign people. Rarely will one of either kind say that he wanted to ‘help’ the foreign country, carry on propaganda against communism or spread American ideas”; to finally conclude, that the Fulbrighter “because he is not a professional in any of these departments, he actually manages to accomplish a considerable amount in all of them.”

Americanization or genuine globalism? In the Fulbright case, I am inclined to believe it’s the latter.


Note: I was a Greek Fulbright grantee in 1986-1987. The award allowed me to begin graduate school at Bryn Mawr College.


The Grecian Landscapes of Anna Richards Brewster

Temple of Poseidon at Sounion by Anna Richards Brewster, 1912. Private Collection (?)

The American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter) has an interesting, albeit odd, art collection. It comprises mostly oils and watercolors, with a few three-dimensional exceptions, such as Paul Manship’s bronze Actaeon. The card inventory that George Huxley and Mary Lee Coulson created in the late 1980s was replaced by a database I developed in the 1990s, in order to record the whereabouts of the artworks which frequently moved from building to building without any notice.

While some of the objects were bequeathed to the ASCSA by former staff and members, most of the material lacks provenance. My first database was short on content, but the more I delved into the School’s institutional records and collections of personal papers, the more interesting information I discovered about the origin of some of the art pieces. In the case of Amory Gardner’s fine portrait by Anders Zorn, I found that it was a gift from the Groton School in 1938.

The sources of some of the modern paintings (e.g., those by Martyl Langsdorf or Tita Fasciotti) were puzzling at first because I could not connect them with any gifts. The advent of the internet, however, has solved many of these mysteries.  Searches for artists’ names revealed that some of the modern paintings were connected with Saint Louis, suggesting that some may have come to the School together with the personal papers of archaeologist George Mylonas, who taught at the Washington University in Saint Louis for several decades. (See “The Spirit of Saint Louis Lives in Athens“.)

Inventorying purposes aside, my preoccupation with the School’s art collection did not stem from an art historical interest but instead from a need to contextualize it: for it seemed that each piece had a biography that continued past the death of its creator and owner(s). With patience, some luck, and a good amount of research in the School’s archives, I soon concluded that there was an interesting story to be told about many of these objects, a story that connected them with men and women once intimately bound up with the ASCSA. Read the rest of this entry »


Grace Macurdy of Vassar College: Scholar, Teacher, and Proto-Feminist


This is a guest post by Robert L. Pounder

Robert L. Pounder, Emeritus Professor of Classics at Vassar College, here contributes a review of Barbara McManus’s posthumous book about Grace Harriet Macurdy, titled The Drunken Duchess of Vassar. Pounder, who has been conducting in-depth research on the social history of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) in the 1920s-1930s, writes that Classics was “dominated by unaware, myopic, smug, unsympathetic men, men who viewed academic accomplishment by women with condescension and skepticism.”  Women in academia, like Macurdy, were thought to be anomalies–a different species. Based on his work at the ASCSA Archives, Pounder has also published an essay, “The Blegens and the Hills: A Family Affair,” in Carl W. Blegen: Personal & Archaeological Narratives, ed. N. Vogeikoff-Brogan, J. L. Davis, and V. Florou, Atlanta 2015.


Born in 1866 in Robbinston, Maine, Grace Harriet Macurdy was the sixth of nine siblings whose parents had immigrated to the United States from the nearby Canadian province of New Brunswick just a year before her birth. Her father, Angus McCurdy (the spelling of the name was later changed to Macurdy because he did not want to be thought Irish) was a carpenter who barely eked out a living.  After leaving his children in the care of their mother and paternal grandmother for long periods and thus improving his situation somewhat, he was able to move the family to Watertown, Massachusetts by 1870; there they grew.  Watertown provided a better series of houses and slightly improved material circumstances for the Macurdy children.  Moreover, they profited greatly from the guidance of their mother and grandmother, both of whom encouraged the children, including the girls, to read, write, and pursue their educations. Read the rest of this entry »


An African American Pioneer in Greece: John Wesley Gilbert and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1890-1891.

Posted by John W. I. Lee

John W. I. Lee, Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara, here contributes an essay about John W. Gilbert, the first African-American student to participate in the Regular Program of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) in 1890-1891. Lee is writing a book about John Wesley Gilbert, the early history of the ASCSA, and the development of archaeology in Greece.


In his official report to the Managing Committee of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter) for academic year 1890-1891, Director Charles Waldstein praised students Carleton Brownson, Andrew Fossum, John Gilbert, and John Pickard, who had “proved themselves serious and enthusiastic” throughout the year.  Waldstein went on to describe the School’s 1891 excavations at ancient Eretria on the island of Euboea.  While Fossum and Brownson excavated Eretria’s theater, Pickard and Gilbert “undertook the survey and careful study of all the ancient walls of the city and acropolis, and will produce a plan and an account which… will be of great topographical and historical value.”

Waldstein’s report gives no indication that one of the students, John Gilbert, was African American—the first African American scholar to attend the ASCSA.  With the passage of time, memory of Gilbert’s pioneering contribution was forgotten at the School, until Professor Michele Valerie Ronnick of Wayne State University searched for him in the ASCSA Archives in the early 2000s.  Ronnick’s work on Gilbert, featured in the School’s Ákoue Newsletter, forms the foundation of my research.

John Wesley Gilbert. Photo: Daniel W. Culp, Twentieth Century Negro Literature (1902)

John Wesley Gilbert was born about 1863 in rural Hephzibah, Georgia; his mother Sarah was enslaved.  After Emancipation, Sarah took her young son to the nearby city of Augusta.  From childhood Gilbert thirsted for learning.  An 1871 Freedman’s Bank register bearing his signature gives his occupation as “go to school to Miss Chesnut.” Read the rest of this entry »


Dollies and Doilies: Priscilla Capps Hill and the Refugee Crisis in Athens, 1922-1941

Posted by Jack L. Davis

Jack L. Davis, Carl W. Blegen Professor of Greek Archaeology at the University of Cincinnati and a former director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (2007-2012), here contributes an essay about the (forgotten) relief efforts of Priscilla Capps Hill through Near East Industries during the great refugee crisis that followed the Asia Minor catastrophe in 1922.


In the months that followed the Asia Minor catastrophe in September 1922 and the population exchange of 1923, more than a million Orthodox Christians were ultimately compelled to desert their birth rights in Anatolia. Their influx to Greece generated an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. American expatriates in Greece took immediate action. Darrell O. Hibbard of the YMCA and Jefferson Caffery, Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Mission, created the Athens American Relief Committee, which notified Red Cross missions in Europe and America about the crisis and organized the first relief efforts. Bert H. Hill, Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter), was appointed Chairman of the Relief Committee, in which role he was expected to coordinate communication with the Greek government.  Harry Hill (no relation to Bert), an Englishman, head of the American Express Company in Athens, was charged with purchases and banking.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars were collected by the time the Committee was disbanded on November 24, 1922, when the American Red Cross arrived in Greece to provide humanitarian aid together with Near East Relief, the latter focusing largely on Turkey.  Its work had been invaluable. (See also E. Daleziou, ” ‘Adjuster and Negotiator’: Bert Hodge Hill and the Greek Refugee Crisis, 1918-1928,” Hesperia 82, 2013, pp. 49-65.)

The ASCSA’s involvement did not stop there. In the years to come “the School continued to be a hub for Americans offering their services to a variety of refugee relief efforts such as the ARC, the American Women’s Hospital Organization, Near East Relief, the YMCA, and the Athens American Relief Committee” (Daleziou 2013, p. 58). In addition to relief work, Edward Capps, the Chair of the School’s Managing Committee and a professor of Classics at Princeton University, was asked by Greece’s former prime-minister Eleftherios Venizelos to raise awareness in America of what was happening in Greece. Without wasting time, Capps, who knew Venizelos personally from his days as U.S. Minister to Greece (1920-1921), founded The American Friends of Greece (AFG), the broader mission of which was “to promote friendly relations between Greece and the U.S.” (The AFG later published booklets in support of Greece during World War II and a monthly newsletter, “The Philhellene,” which circulated from 1942-1950.)

Priscilla’s Story

Incorporation of the AFG on October 15, 1923 marked the start of Priscilla Capps’s involvement in refugee affairs, a much less well-known story than her father’s.  Priscilla Capps (1900-1985), a graduate of Smith College, had assisted her father in Athens during his service as Minister, while she was a student at the ASCSA, as a kind of “first daughter.”

Priscilla Capps clad in a traditional Greek costume, ca. 1920s. Photo: ASCSA Archives, Oscar Broneer Papers.

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Imagining and Reimagining Greece


Posted by Clayton Miles Lehmann

Clayton M. Lehmann, Professor of History at the University of South Dakota, here contributes an essay about American college students coming to Greece, as part of study-abroad programs. This post represents a modified and shortened version of the 63rd Annual Harrington Lecture, which he delivered 28 October 2015 to the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of South Dakota.  Lehmann was a Regular Member of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in 1982/3, lived in Greece while he wrote his doctoral dissertation, and has returned often, three times as the Director of the Summer Session for the American School and regularly since 2005 as one of the professor-captains of the University of South Dakota’s short-term faculty-led study-abroad program “The Isles of Greece!”.


After disappointing tourism numbers for the 2004 Olympics, the Greek National Tourism Organization launched a major campaign, “Live Your Myth in Greece,” to rekindle Greece in the world’s imagination.  When a group of my students arrived in Athens in 2005 for the study-abroad program The Isles of Greece!,[1] they saw the advertisements for this campaign on the billboards and buses on the way into the city.  At first glance, the images appeal to the typical touristic expectation of the Greek quartet of sea, sun, sand, and sex.  But the classical architecture and supernatural figures suggest a more complex imaginary mix.  The fine print on some of these posters read:

Greece: a land of mythical dimensions. Where the spirit of hospitality welcomes you as a modern god. And the siren song draws you into its deep blue waters. Where a gentle breeze through ancient ruins seems to whisper your name. And a dance until dawn can seem to take on Dionysian proportions. In Greece the myths are still very much alive. And in amongst them sits your own . . . patiently waiting for you to live it. Live your myth in Greece.  Ask your travel agent.

 

Eros and Mermaid posters for Live Your Myth in Greece, Greek National Tourism Organization campaign, 2005; designed by K. Karavellas; and creative design by McCann Erickson-BBDO-Cleverbank Joint Venture. Photographs courtesy of the GNTO.

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