Marking 20 Years of Greek Professorship at UMissouri-St. Louis

Michael Cosmopoulos at the excavation site in Pylos, Greece. PHOTO: (Courtesy of Dr. Michael Cosmopoulos)

ST. LOUIS – As Michael B. Cosmopoulos, the Hellenic Government-Karakas Foundation Professor of Greek Studies and Professor of Archaeology noted in Hellenica, the newsletter of the Hellenic Government-Karakas Family Foundation Professorship in Greek Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL), “Twenty years ago a group of passionate Greek-Americans had a dream: that their culture and language be preserved for their children and their children’s children.

“The Hellenic Government-Karakas Family Foundation Professorship has been successful in honoring this dream. Evidence of this success can be seen locally, nationally, and internationally: locally, it is attested by the high student enrollments and the active involvement of the community in our programs; nationally and internationally by the position of the Professorship as a leader in the research, teaching, and outreach of Hellenism.

What sets this Professorship apart is the emphasis on the humanistic values of Hellenism. We live in an age of rapid technological progress, in which it falls upon our universities to provide to our youth not only the technical skills needed to succeed in a competitive global environment, but also the ability to think critically and be morally aware human beings. As an ideal, humanity originates in Greece. And that’s why Hellenic studies are so important to our educational system and a Professorship like ours so vital. Here, in the heart of America, we are determined to preserve the Great Tradition.”

Among the achievements of the program, over 100 donors from the wider St. Louis community helped to establish a three-year position in Modern Greek Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL). The position, St. Louis Greek Community Visiting Assistant Professor in Modern Greek History and Culture, held by Professor Nikos Poulopoulos, was renewed for another three years by UMSL as noted in Hellenica.

According to the newsletter, Professor Poulopoulos is doing a wonderful job not only in teaching Modern Greek history, language, and culture, but also in researching the history of the St. Louis Greek Community.

Through his courses during the past year, he taught his students about the full, diachronic spectrum of Greece’s historical and cultural journey, from the glory of the ancient Greeks to the genesis and gradual maturation, over the last two centuries, of Modern Greece.

In between, he taught a summer course on the fascinating period of Byzantine Hellenism. This past semester, with the support of a College of Arts and Sciences Curriculum Grant, he designed a new course examining the history of friction between the Middle East and the West – where Greece has often functioned as a buffer zone, when not an actual battleground.

Moreover, part of his graduate seminar in Oral History, was dedicated to the study and analysis of historical narratives at the Matsakis Center at UMSL, by members of the Greek community of St. Louis.

Building upon his increased interest on the early history of the Greek Diaspora in America, and especially of St. Louis, and drawing upon his long research and study of the historical archives of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he continued to work on a manuscript on nineteenth century Greek activity in the US.

Last semester, he delivered two invited lectures on the subject: “From New York to New Orleans: Early Greek Merchant Communities in the United States” at Stony Brook University and “Homo Auctor: Orphans, Merchants and the Making of the First Greek-American Citizen in the Nineteenth Century” at Yale.

In order to make parts of his research more accessible to a wider audience and to contribute to the increasingly popular fields of public and digital history, he launched a blog on the history of the Greeks of St. Louis (https://stlgreeks.wordpress.com).

In November, Cosmopoulos was elected a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, the premier research academy of Europe.

In the ranks of the Academy are included 8 Nobel Prize Winners, as well as Pope Benedict XVI.

The induction ceremony will take place in March 2017 at the seat of the Academy in Salzburg, Austria.

Cosmopoulos was also invited to lecture at the university of the Academy, the Alma Mater Europaea.