The summer at the ASCSA has been full of new faces on staff and in oversight of the School. Joining us this July have been new Director James Wright, new Assistant Director Nicholas Blackwell, and new Managing Committee Chair Jenifer Neils. While they are getting established in their new positions, we wanted to take this moment to say goodbye to outgoing Managing Committee Chair Mary Sturgeon. Mary has been chair since 2007 and has played an integral role in the School's administration. We asked her for a few parting remarks before she took off for her research in Corinth.
What do you see as the biggest accomplishments of the Managing Committee these past five years?
During my term the Mission, Vision, and Philosophy for the School was rewritten that encompassed a broader view of what the School actually does, and to acknowledge its position as the preeminent center for the study of the Greek world from antiquity to the present day. (Read it here.)
The internal processes of the School as well as our outreach were helped enormously by the revamping of the School’s website. The website has grown considerably in breadth of coverage and ease of use. We use it not only to enhance internal communication but to announce lectures and provide video of our lectures that can be watched on the web. The latter is a wonderful new development for us.
We also began the practice of holding external reviews for individual departments. The first of these reviews was conducted on the operations and goals of the Wiener Laboratory. It was reviewed first because plans for constructing a new building are in progress. This review was very useful to those working on the building plans, and it helped bring scientists at key institutes in the U.S. and elsewhere into discussions about future directions of the Lab.
The Aristeia Award, which annually recognizes one distinguished alumnus/a, was established at the time of the 130th anniversary celebrations of the School in June 2011. Already two of the School’s most distinguished senior alumni have been recognized with this award, Alan Boegehold and James R. McCredie.
I hope the ten standing committees of the Managing Committee know how grateful I am for their hard work. Members of these elective committees work as volunteers to support the many aspects of the School.
You have had a long history at the School, first as a summer session student, then Academic program member, curator at Ancient Corinth, and finally, Managing Committee member, then chair. What did you learn about the School that you did not know?
Before I took up this position I thought that I knew the School fairly well, since I have returned regularly to Athens, Corinth, and Isthmia. I have been amazed that what I knew best— the teaching program (annual and summer sessions) and research projects (Corinth) — were really just the tip of the iceberg. The School is much more rich and complex than that.
What are you working on now?
This summer I am in Corinth once again, working on the sculptures found in Jim Wiseman’s University of Texas excavations of the Gymnasium area and Fountain of the Lamps in 1965-1971. This excavation has an amazing story, as the fountain with its pool were discovered as Wiseman and his team were digging through the water supply tunnels for the system of the Lerna Fountain. Imagine ‘backing into’ an entire building complex in that way! The sculptures include a number of fine early Roman heads…of youthful victors and officials of the games.
What do you see as the incoming chair's biggest challenge in the coming term?
Jenifer Neils will face many challenges in the next few years, foremost among them budgetary issues. Everyone involved —the Director of the School, the department heads, etc. —has worked hard over the past five years to make reasonable cuts in the budget wherever possible. For the future, a creative combination of new types of fund-raising and careful budgeting will be key.