Tampa, FL.- By Dr. Byron P. Palls
The American Foundation for Greek Language and Culture (AFGLC), an organization that is dedicated to promoting Hellenic values in the United States, in partnership with the Interdisciplinary Centers for Hellenic Studies (ICHS) at the University of South Florida (USF) and the Richard Stockton College of NJ (RSCNJ), held its 13th annual Forum/Conference on March 7-8, 2008 on the campus of the University of South Florida. The cost of this entire event was underwritten by the well-known philanthropists and AFGLC benefactors George and Margo Behrakis.
Founded in 1992 by a group of concerned Hellenes and philhellenes and headquartered in Tampa, Florida, AFGLC is a non-profit educational organization whose primary goal is to establish chapters in cities throughout the United States. The chapters work with Hellenic benefactors and local colleges and universities to set up Interdisciplinary Centers for Hellenic Studies (ICHS). The Centers, through their unique academic programs, preserve and promote Hellenism, educate college students about the monumental contributions of the ancient Greek thinkers to Western civilization, and promote the Hellenic spirit in their communities.
The Administration of the University of South Florida gave its full backing to this important educational event; both the Provost of the University, Dr. Ralph Wilcox, and the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. John Skvoretz, were present to open the Conference and welcome the participants, extolling the many benefits of having an ICHS on campus and of the partnership between AFGLC and the university.
The Interdisciplinary concept makes possible the organization of Hellenic Studies with a relatively modest endowment of five professorships in Greek History, Greek Culture, Greek Language, Byzantine Studies and Orthodox Religion, and Greek Philosophy. This approach allows students, regardless of major, to include courses that will educate them on the importance and relevance of the 5,000 year-long Hellenic heritage to their fields of study. Every ICHS needs five donors, each of whom contributes a minimum of $100,000 to make the Center a reality. The Centers are able to take advantage of the many teaching and library resources available in each of the institutions of higher learning. Working together with the local chapter and with AFGLC Headquarters, a Center is established by contract with the college or university, so that its existence is guaranteed in perpetuity. Each professorship bears the name of its benefactor, i.e., the “Papadopoulos Chair of Greek Language,” and thus will exist in perpetuity as well.
This yearʼs event, whose theme was “The Hellenic Legacy through the Ages,” consisted of lectures, panel discussions and audio-visual presentations. The academicians, scholars and interested individuals who contributed to the success of the event, addressed the long-term influence of Hellenism in the world, as well as the on-going and projected educational contributions of the Interdisciplinary Centers. There were ample opportunities for audience participation and interaction, which made each presentation a unique learning experience. The Greek folk dances performed by young professional men and women of St. Johnʼs Greek Orthodox Church of Tampa added a touch of culture to the event, and were very well received and much appreciated by all.
The emotional highlight of the Conference was a special dinner/reception, held at the Embassy Suites Hotel, to honor two outstanding Hellenes, Dr. John Anton and Dr. Demetrios Constantelos. The reception was attended by University of South Florida and AFGLC officials. Dr. Anton, the Distinguished Professor of Greek Philosophy and Culture of the University of South Florida (one of the Hellenes who ideated and helped found AFGLC), and Dr. Constantelos, a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, were presented special citations by Dr. John Balis, President of AFGLC, in recognition of their tireless contributions in the service of Hellenism. The elegant and thought-provoking keynote address by Dr. Anton was received most enthusiastically by the audience.
Hellenes and philhellenes interested in learning more about establishing AFGLC chapters in their cities to promote Hellenism should contact Dr. John Balis, President of AFGLC either via e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone: 813-962-0708. To learn more about AFGLC, visit its website at: www.afglc.org.