In addition to being honored by the Archaeological Institute of America this year for Conservation and Heritage Management, James McCredie was also recognized by ASCSA Alumni on January 7 with the presentation of the Aristeia Award. This award is bestowed to alumni/ae who have provided exceptional service to the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and have contributed in extraordinary ways to the School’s mission in teaching, research, archaeological exploration, or publication.
Bryn Mawr professor and incoming ASCSA Director Jim Wright introduced Professor McCredie with the following:
We are here to celebrate and honor Jim McCredie’s service to the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Other institutions might do the same. Of the many sterling aspects of his character one that stands out and one that we celebrate today is his deep commitment to institutions. It has been said that Jim is a Harvard man, but equally he is an IFA man, THE man of Samothrace, and quintessentially, an American School man. If we are honoring him with an aristeia award marking his excellence, we must equally observe that with respect to the School as an institution in Greece, that excellence carries with it the virtue of being a philhellene.
Jim’s love of Greece and the American School surely emerged in his work at Koroni that he conducted with Eugene Vanderpool. I recall Jim telling with evident pleasure about how, when they were digging the site near Porto Raphti in 1960 with its splendid views, its fortifications and important ceramic finds, that one day EV looked up from the digging and observed that he sure was having a lot of fun! If there is anything Jim likes more than institutions it is excavating, I’m sure because it’s so much fun! Even when given only a cleaning permit, Jim has fun. Heck, he managed to uncover an entire stoa at Samothrace with a cleaning permit!
Having fun is important to Jim. It has been the way he has been able to move institutions forward and help people along in their pursuits. Those of us who were at the School during his eight years as director may well recall hearing peels of laughter coming out of the director’s office. And from someone in a three-piece suit to boot! Jim’s wry sense of humor, his ever-present laugh, a joke about Sylvester (which for me is distilled in perhaps the funniest word in the German language: Ausspuff, which means ‘exhaust pipe’ and which I had the pleasure of ordering from a parts dealer in Germany so that I could bring it to Greece for Jim), a well-told story, and even an irritating problem are always accompanied by laughter. Behind that demeanor there is a consistent sensitivity to the needs and feelings of others, a knack for seeing to the core of a problem, and consummate good judgment. This is the recipe for his success as a steward of institutions.
Who among the students and scholars who were at the school when Jim and Mimsy ruled the roost does not remember a favor bestowed, a sound piece of advice, a careful seating next to just the right member of the archaeological service, or one of the foreign schools, at a formal dinner in the director’s residence? Their attention to detail, and their gracious follow-through advanced many a career. During his directorship Jim was fond of saying he never had a permit request turned down. Testimony to his administrative skill that might be, but those of us who had the privilege to work with him know that that record was the result of respectful and consistent attention to our colleagues in the Ministry of Culture and to the Ephors and their assistants in their posts throughout Greece. If you were ever on a trip led by Jim and wondered where he disappeared after the bus returned to the hotel, you should know that he was paying a social call at the nearest Ephoreia.
It has been remarked that Jim steered the School through the difficult period of the junta’s brutal dictatorship by keeping the School on a straight and neutral course through the shoals of Greek politics. What Jim knew was that the success of the institution would be guaranteed by the ability of its members, its staff, and above all by its director to be perceived as an honest actor, whose integrity was unimpeachable through word and deed. There is a very long list of students and colleagues who will vouch for this. Jim’s association with the School totals 54 years, which is 40% of the School’s existence. I’m not trying to emphasize Jim’s age but rather his impact. His many contributions to the School are honored today because we know that the American School of Classical Studies at Athens would not be the vibrant, healthy and internationally renowned institution it is today without the benefit of his modest, persistent, and steady hand as student, director, Chair of the Managing Committee, and President of the Board of Trustees. Please join me in saluting Jim McCredie as the recipient of this year’s Aristeia Award!
Jim Wright presents the Aristeia Award to Jim McCredie