TARPON SPRINGS, FL – In September, shortly after becoming Provost of St. Petersburg College’s (SPC) campus in Tarpon Springs, FL – a community so deeply immersed in the Greek culture and lifestyle that the term “America’s Greek Island” is an apt phrase to describe it – Dr. Marvin Bright enthusiastically proclaimed to The National Herald: “Greece has given so much to the world in terms of history, culture, education, that it is a natural fit” for SPC to become the premier institution of higher learning in America in terms of infusing Hellenism into the curriculum (“Tarpon’s SPC to Feature Hellenism,” Sept. 27).
A few months away from completing his first year as SPC-Tarpon Springs Provost, Dr. Bright now provides an update about how that important initiative is progressing.
It was as if we never ended our conversation from last fall, as things picked up right where they left off, seamlessly. Along with the Greek-American community, including the district’s Congressman Gus Bilirakis and his father and predecessor, Mike, along with former Tarpon Springs Vice Mayor and current mayoral candidate Chris Alahouzos, Consul General of Greece in Tampa Adamantia Klotsa, and countless academics from the surrounding area, Dr. Bright beamed about the “tremendous strides” in terms of further infusing Hellenism into SPC’s curriculum.
“We have cleared the hurdle” of incorporating Greek language-based courses into the mix, Bright told TNH, and now the plan is to get everyone on board – including academic advisors – to get the message out to everyone that these are readily available.
Particularly exciting was this year’s academic forum at SPC by the American Foundation for Greek Language and Culture (AFGLC) a few weeks ago. The theme, and title, this year was: “The Virtue of Philotimo.” A short film released last autumn, directed by Andy and Mike Manatos and John Kinhard and produced by the OXI Foundation, titled The Greek Secret, focused on that uniquely-Greek word, and its widespread popularity raised the national consciousness – in and out of the Greek community – about philotimo. Accordingly, the topic was quite timely, eminently appropriate, and Bright said the feedback he received was that it was AFGLC’s “best conference thus far. The energy, the topics – you really had to be there to feel the energy,” Bright continued. “I could talk about it for hours, but you really had to be there to experience it.”
Bright spoke about AFGLC Past President Dr. Byron Palls, who is staunchly dedicated to the AFGLC Mission in general, and specifically as it pertains to Hellenism in the SPC curriculum. Dr. Palls was unable to attend the event live, but he attended via Skype. “The technology was fantastic,” Bright said. The event “had a good scholarly feel. There was a great deal of research-based information on the topic of philotimo, but it was all quite nurturing. My goal is to grow it even more for next year.”
Palls shared a good deal of information about AFGLC and the Philotimo conference with TNH. He explained that Dr. John Ballis, his predecessor as AFGLC President, died in 2010 before he had a chance to realize the collaborative growth of AFGLC and SPC. To that end, Palls was determined to fulfill Ballis’ wishes. Palls has continued to work diligently to ensure that SPC continues to host the AFGLC forum, and that SPC will create a Center for Hellenic Studies.
In his presentation, Palls described that existing courses at SPC include Ancient Greek Mythology, Introduction to Greek Culture, and Introduction to Greek Philosophy, and additional courses in Greek history and language are planned.
Moreover, Palls outlined some of the contributions Greeks have made to civilization that are perhaps not as well-known as history, medicine, philosophy, and theater. These include: alarm clocks, automatic doors, odometers, public education, showers, and vending machines.
One of the programs Dr. Bright is most supportive of is SPC’s Early College Program, which continues to do well. Essentially, high school students enroll in SPC courses simultaneously, thereby graduating from high school with a diploma and an associate degree. At that point, he says, “they can enroll in a four-year college as first-semester juniors.”
Bright is also very excited about an upcoming “big initiative” regarding Hellenism and the SPC curriculum. He plans to reveal more to TNH as details develop, but for now, he shared that “it is driven by the community, by the citizens,” and he calls it “an educational ecosystem.” Numerous community leaders, not least of which both Congressmen Bilirakis, are involved. Further developments may emerge as soon as this summer.