As I mentioned in my last message, at their meeting in June the Board of Directors adopted significant changes to the Bylaws and Regulations. Please do not stop reading here! These documents do not make interesting reading for most people, but they embody our sense of what we are about, and the changes are important.
Some of them are technical matters, improving consistency of language, adapting to modern technology for communication, and conforming to current legal standards; we had legal counsel review them, and she made lots of small changes. But the interesting changes mainly reflect two important developments. One is the gradual implementation of our strategic plan, and the other is our response to the financial stress that almost all learned societies face today. And they also reflect the experiences of the vice presidents in leading their divisions in recent years.
Your Board of Directors met in New York on June 18th. Our gathering came as we near the hand-over from one executive director to another for the first time in seventeen years, with Adam Blistein’s retirement at the end of this month. Helen Cullyer, his successor, began work for the Society on May 1st, and they have been working together closely over the past seven weeks. The directors made special contributions to the annual fund in honor of Adam’s service—and it’s not too late for you to do so also before the close of our fiscal year on June 30th.
No one who was present at the presidential panel organized by John Marincola in San Francisco will soon forget the combination of analysis, passion, and practicality offered by the speakers, as they sought to quantify and personalize the plight of those looking for permanent academic employment today (Eleanor Dickey, Stephanie Budin), to suggest a wider range of career possibilities for those with doctorates in classics and the humanities more broadly (John Paul Christy), and to propose ways large and small in which all of us can help make the working conditions of adjunct faculty more humane and more likely to keep them active members of our scholarly community (Toph Marshall).
I am delighted to announce the appointment of Dr. Helen Cullyer as the next Executive Director of the Society for Classical Studies. She is a classicist, with special interest in classical philosophy, educated at Oxford and Yale, where she received her doctorate in 1999. She taught at Evergreen State College and the University of Pittsburgh before moving in 2008 to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, where she is currently Program Officer in the Scholarly Communications Program. Many members will know her work in that role, where she has been involved in working with scholars and institutions in developing many initiatives in scholarly publishing, preservation, and access to digital resources. She thus brings to the SCS a broad background in scholarship, teaching, and administration, as well as an exceptionally wide perspective on developments in digital humanities and the funding possibilities for the classics.
It is now less than a month away from our annual meeting in San Francisco, and I hope that you have all had a chance, despite the busy time of year, to check out the program at the website. The Program Committee has done an outstanding job this year, and there is a variety of offerings for virtually every interest in our wonderfully wide-ranging field.
I begin with a big thank you to the membership. In my last message on annual giving I mentioned that the Board of Directors wanted to make annual meeting travel awards more robust for our colleagues who are most vulnerable, and I asked you to consider this when contributing to the Society.
The response was most gratifying! Members designated close to $5,000 for student travel awards this year, more than three times last year’s $1,500. In response, the Finance Committee has approved the granting of 20 awards at $250 each for the San Francisco meeting, a substantial increase from the 10 awards at $150 each for the New Orleans meeting. I am very grateful to you all for this response.
Within the last few weeks you should have received from the Society an appeal for our Annual Giving campaign. I know this is a very busy time of year but I hope you will allow me just a few minutes to speak on behalf of the campaign.
Those of us who are officers of the Society are often asked what the SCS actually does. I think it’s fair to say that for most members, the SCS is the annual meeting and the placement service. These are important aspects, of course, but we do much more: resolve disputes arising in professional matters; raise support and lobby on behalf of threatened Classics departments in the US and abroad; support scholarly projects, including L’Année Philologique; promote classics to the general public; and, of course, produce a scholarly journal. And that is far from all.
In this, my first presidential letter, I want to begin by acknowledging the singular honor of being elected to this office by you, the members. My predecessors have set a high standard and I hope not to fall short of their distinguished example. I thank especially my immediate predecessors, Denis Feeney and Kathryn Gutzwiller, for all the help they have given me as I assume this role, and for the leadership they have shown as the Society has moved forward to take on new roles and new challenges.
In this context, I write to inform you of an exciting new initiative by the Board and to encourage those of you who are interested to volunteer for service.
In this last of my presidential letters, I take the opportunity to inform you of a new SCS initiative to establish a wider audience for classics. At last year’s Presidential Panel, Robert Connor made an impassioned plea for our Society to undertake the expansion of classics in institutions of higher learning. While Departments of Classics appear to be holding their own across the country, it is evident that the emphasis on STEM disciplines and support for interdisciplinary education at the expense of traditional departments provide challenges to classics education as we know it. The changing landscape of twenty-first century education can, however, also provide opportunities for broadening education in classics, if we think creatively.