York inaugurates Hellenic Heritage Foundation Chair

The inauguration of the Hellenic Heritage Foundation Chair, held Jan.16, brought York University administrators, faculty, staff and students together with leaders of Toronto’s Greek community for a landmark lecture and reception. Jen Sipos, manager of communications & public relations for the Faculty of Arts, sent YFile this report:

The Hellenic Heritage Foundation Chair in Modern Greek History at York was endowed for $2 million by the Hellenic Heritage Foundation of Toronto, with a $500,000 contribution from York. It is the first endowed Chair in Hellenic Studies and inaugurates the only Hellenic studies program in Toronto.

Left: Professor Thomas Gallant gives the inaugural lecture of Hellenic studies program

Lorna R. Marsden, president & vice-chancellor of York University, along with Vice-President Academic Sheila Embleton and Dean of the Faculty of Arts Robert Drummond hailed the gift, made to York by the Hellenic Heritage Foundation and the members of the Greek community, as “extraordinary”.

Distinguished guests from the Hellenic Heritage Foundation included directors George Seretis, John Sotos, Angelo Demangos and Steve Mirkopoulos. Mirkopoulos noted: “We are so happy that we chose York University as the location for the Hellenic Studies Chair. We are also especially delighted with the University’s choice of the first Chair, Professor Thomas W. Gallant. We are looking forward to working with Professor Gallant to ensure that this Chair continues to grow.”


Above: George Seretis, a director of the Hellenic Heritage Foundation, with Lorna R. Marsden, president & vice-chancellor of York University

Greek Consul General to Toronto Efthymios Efthymiades along with Aristotle Christou, president of the Hellenic Canadian Board of Trade, also attended the inaugural lecture, titled “Towards a Social History of the Greeks”, along with Marlene Shore, Chair of York’s Department of History. They shared their enthusiasm for a “fascinating” talk given by Gallant. Shore noted the significance of Gallant’s ambitious new research project – a comprehensive social history of the Greeks. “Focusing on issues of identity and transnational in scope, it promises to be a book of international significance,” said Shore. “Gallant’s colleagues in the History Department, members of the York administration and the Greek community all eagerly await its publication.”

Gallant’s lecture unveiled his vision of how historians in the 21st century should approach the writing of the social history of the Greeks. “Such a study,” he emphasized, “has to integrate the history of Greek society inside of the modern nation-state with the story of the Greeks of the diaspora. In order to write the story of Greek society in the modern age, the analytical framework must be transnational on a global scale.”

Left: Steve Mirkopoulos, a director of the Hellenic Heritage Foundation, welcomed guests to the inaugural lecture of the Hellenic studies program

Gallant’s students are equally passionate about the scope of his proposed approach. Said fourth-year Faculty of Arts student Mike Kerley: “I took a course with Professor Gallant last year. It was a third-year course. The seminars were interactive and he made it fun to learn, so I came back. There is an emphasis on excellence in the Department of History here at York and we now have a real opportunity to become a leading centre for Hellenic studies.” Another fourth-year Faculty of Arts student, Joanna Barlas, praised Gallant’s style of teaching: “He’s very approachable, very knowledgeable, we’re very lucky to have him. His arrival marks an opportunity for me to focus directly on my area of interest and I’m really happy about that.”

Among the activities undertaken by Gallant are three international conferences, including the Modern Greek Studies Association held at York fall 2003; a new comprehensive degree program in Hellenic Studies commencing September 2004; and the York Hellenic Studies summer field school program held in Greece for fourth-year students.