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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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Princeton establishes Stanley J. Seeger '52 Center for Hellenic Studies

Building on its 30-year history of developing one of the nation's leading programs in Hellenic studies, Princeton University has established the Stanley J. Seeger '52 Center for Hellenic Studies to consolidate and expand its research activities, international initiatives, scholarly exchanges and offerings in the classroom.

The Program in Hellenic Studies, founded in 1981, enrolls about 200 undergraduate and graduate students a year in academic study and supports more than 100 Princetonians for international travel, study and research. The new center will enhance the Hellenic studies curriculum by establishing new academic positions, adding faculty members, strengthening the graduate curriculum and expanding opportunities for study in Greece and the Hellenic Mediterranean. It is named for alumnus Stanley J. Seeger, Class of 1952, in honor of his extensive contributions to the University's endeavors in Hellenic studies.

"I am delighted that Hellenic studies has assumed the name of its foremost benefactor," said President Shirley M. Tilghman. "For more than three decades, Stanley Seeger nurtured what is now one of the world's great centers for the study of Greece and the transformative influence of Greek ideas across times and cultures. Although we mourn his recent passing, Stanley's love of Greece and commitment to learning will continue to enrich the lives of our students and faculty, as well as the world of Hellenic scholarship, for many, many years to come."

Seeger, who died last July, earned a bachelor's degree in music from Princeton in 1952 and a master's degree in fine arts in 1956. He donated $2 million to Princeton in 1979 to create the Stanley. J. Seeger Hellenic Fund, providing the foundation for the University's Hellenic programs, and continued to contribute additional funds over the years.

Seeger's gifts have allowed the University to build a world-class collection of research resources, rare and unique books, manuscripts, photographs, and objects in the University library and the Princeton University Art Museum to support scholarship and teaching. In addition, they have funded faculty and student travel to Greece, a crucial element for the study of Hellenic culture.

"Stanley's legacy is legendary," said Dimitri Gondicas, a member of the Class of 1978, who was appointed the first Stanley J. Seeger Director of the Center over the summer and who has served as the program's executive director since its inception. "Through his gifts to Hellenic studies, he has touched the lives of thousands of students and scholars, Princetonians, as well their counterparts from Greece and all over the world. He has made possible many unique academic and cultural opportunities. The range and impact of his generosity are truly extraordinary."

The new Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies, established last May, "focuses on research, broadly defined, and has a wider horizon as one of the University's windows to the outside world, contributing in a major way to the University's new initiatives fostering the internationalization of the curriculum, excellence in undergraduate education, the promotion of the creative and performing arts, and the multicultural character of the University community," Gondicas said.

The Program in Hellenic Studies, which is being directed by classics professor Christian Wildberg, will continue to function with a focus on the teaching of undergraduate and graduate students, as an integral part and primary focus of the center. Since 1996, the program has awarded a certificate in Hellenic studies to between three and seven undergraduates a year.

The mission of the center is to oversee, fund, initiate and manage study and research on all aspects of Hellenic studies at Princeton. The center will sponsor a broad range of activities: fellowship programs, international initiatives, collections development, publications, interdepartmental projects, institutional collaborations, campus events, fundraising and alumni relations.

According to Gondicas, a major next step in furthering Princeton's presence in Greece is the recently signed collaboration with the Benaki Museum in Athens. Led by the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies and the Princeton University Art Museum, this collaboration will provide opportunities for international exchanges in the art and museum worlds, including long-term loans and exhibitions, with a focus on the ethical management of cultural property. The partnership also will bring to the Princeton campus artists from abroad, while showcasing in Greece and the broader region Princeton's collections and the best of contemporary American culture and the arts.

"This is another great moment for Hellenic studies at Princeton," said Dean of the Faculty David Dobkin. "The program has thrived, and the center provides an opportunity to take its activities to the next level. This also is a wonderful way to acknowledge a very forward-looking gift from Stanley J. Seeger in 1979."

For much of the 20th century, the University has played a leading role among American institutions in the development of Hellenic studies. Princeton's faculty members have included several prominent figures in the field, such as former professor of comparative literature Robert Fagles, internationally known for his translations of Homer, and emeritus professor of English Edmund Keeley, whose acclaimed translations of modern Greek poetry offered to the English-speaking world the works of C.P. Cavafy and Greek Nobel Laureates George Seferis and Odysseus Elytis, all published by Princeton University Press.

Currently, about 150 undergraduates are enrolled in the 20 courses offered by the Hellenic studies program each year. At the graduate level, more than 100 doctoral degrees have been awarded in the last 30 years to students affiliated with or supported by the Program in Hellenic Studies. The summer fellowship program has sent 1,500 Princetonians — undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff — to Greece and the Hellenic Mediterranean for study, research, internships and excavations.

Each year, the Hellenic studies program brings as many as 45 scholars, artists and writers from around the world to Princeton for three-month residences on campus as visiting fellows. The postdoctoral program, which counts a total of 85 participants over its history, has placed former fellows in academic posts at major universities in the United States and Europe.

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