The Stanford Classics Department recently acquired an endowed professorship established in honor of former Greek Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis. The professorship will be funded by a $2 million donation made by the Tsakopoulous family of Sacramento.
The shared aim for the professorship is to provide a roster of courses that examine the resonance of Greek philosophy and values in modern American culture. The family hopes that recognition of the connection between ancient Greece and modern American society will heighten appreciation for where contemporary culture is grounded.
“I hope this endowment takes one of the foundational roots of Western civilization and keeps it fresh,” Tsakopoulous-Kounalakis said. “Ancient Greece holds a very specific relevance to the culture of America. The founders of our country drew upon many of the foundations of this period in history.”
In addition, the family made a specific request that whoever holds the professorship be able to reach as many Stanford students as possible. In compliance, the Classics Department devised three classes that will span a broad range of concentrations pertaining not only to classics majors, but also to students of other concentrations ranging from political science to mathematics.
“These are new courses that we designed so they can reach out to most people,” said Prof. Richard Martin, chair of the Classics Department. “They’re not just general introduction courses, but those that really examine the impact that Greek culture has had on American life in a vast range of areas from politics, engineering, biology to art.”
“New Atlantis” will be the first course, starting this winter quarter. Led by Martin, the class will explore the entire range of Greek thought from the eighth through fifth centuries BC by making consistent and explicit comparisons to modern American political and intellectual culture, covering major works such as the “The Iliad”, “The Odyssey”, “Republic” and “Antigone.”