It is with pleasure, pride, gratitude, and a certain measure of regret that the Board of Directors of the Society for Classical Studies presents the Distinguished Service Award to Dr. Adam D. Blistein.
This coming summer Adam will be retiring as Executive Director of the Society, an office which he has held for the last seventeen years. When Adam took over as Executive Director in the summer of 1999, the Society (at that time the APA, of course) was still finding its way in making the transition from a part-time Secretary-Treasurer to a full-time Executive Director. In retrospect, not all of us knew what we wanted, although it became clear very quickly that what we wanted was Adam. The wealth of experience he brought from his time at the American Association for Cancer Research meant that he already knew the ins and outs of running a learned society, and the fact that he was himself a Classicist meant that he knew very well who we are and what we do. We could not have asked for a happier arrangement.
But it would be greatly misreading Adam’s contribution to our Society were we to note simply that he was a good planner and executor. He was great at the things that were required, of course, but he also brought to the Society a vision of what we might accomplish working together, of what we might do in addition to what we had to do. His ability to reach out to other Classics associations, both here and abroad, and his shepherding of the Capital Campaign were only two of the most visible of his many contributions of this sort to the Society, and every officer and every committee member who has served with him over the past seventeen years knows the kind of inspiration and leadership he has provided on a daily basis.
In everything that he has done, Adam has kept a resolutely low profile, happy that the credit go to others. He often gave that credit to the loyal and effective members of his staff, and here it is with pleasure and gratitude that we acknowledge them as well: Heather Hartz, Renie Plonski, Julie Carew, and Minna Duchovnay. And when he was not giving the credit to them, he was showering praise on the various officers and committee members. But to those of us who have seen him in action over the last decade and a half, and with all due acknowledgement of others, there has never been any doubt as to who the steady, year-after-year, source of the Society’s achievements has been.
Adam is, technically speaking, the second Executive Director of the Society, but for most of us he is our founding Executive Director, the person who has defined the job and its possibilities. He leaves behind a legacy of professionalism and achievement that has fundamentally altered the Society so very much for the better; and if the Society and Adam’s successors are able to see farther and reach more distant goals, that will in no small measure be because we stand on the firm foundations laid by Adam. In that sense, his contribution to the Society will not end in summer of 2016 but will continue to be felt in the years and decades ahead.
For incomparable service, then, to the members and officers of our learned society, and for his many contributions to other learned societies and to the field of Classics as a whole, the Society for Classical Studies presents, with deep gratitude and great admiration, its Distinguished Service Award to Dr. Adam D. Blistein.
Kathryn J. Gutzwiller
Roger S. Bagnall