The American School of Classical Studies at Athens is pleased to announce a major gift from the former president of Bryn Mawr College, Mary (Pat) Patterson McPherson, and friends in support of the new Student Center in Athens. Together, they have decided to name the first-floor West House apartment in honor of legendary professor of Greek, Mabel Louise Lang.
Mabel Lang was greatly admired by students and scholars alike (photos courtesy of Bryn Mawr College)
Mabel Lang (1917–2010) left a legacy of extraordinary scholarship and support for Bryn Mawr College and the American School. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. (1940, 1943) from Bryn Mawr, taught there for 45 years, and chaired its Department of Greek from 1961 to 1988. She also had a long association with the American School, including serving as Chair of its Managing Committee from 1975 to 1980, the first woman to hold this position.
Upon undertaking this initiative, Pat McPherson highlighted Lang’s enormous contributions to Bryn Mawr and the American School. McPherson remarked, “Mabel Lang spent more than 70 years at Bryn Mawr, where she was loved by generations of students and admired by scholars here and abroad. I enjoyed a friendship with Mabel of 45 years, beginning with our joint service in the Dean’s Office at the college in the mid-sixties. I much admired Mabel’s commitment to Bryn Mawr and the American School and knew how much she enjoyed her work at both institutions. Bryn Mawr has had a very close relationship with the School for many years. I became a great supporter knowing how valuable the School experience has been for so many of our students and faculty members. Then, as a member of the board of the School myself, I became an even greater fan. Therefore, it seemed appropriate for several of Mabel’s friends to support the relationship between the institutions by funding one of the new Student Center faculty apartments in honor of Mabel Lang’s own long involvement with the School.”
Although she was a brilliant researcher, Mabel Lang was first and foremost a teacher (photos courtesy of Bryn Mawr College)
Professor Richard Hamilton, Paul Shorey Professor Emeritus of Greek at Bryn Mawr, shared his impressions of Dr. Lang: “During my first four years at Bryn Mawr I was totally intimidated by Mabel—she never said hello in the corridor and never sat in on any of my classes (thank heavens!); but then, miraculously, I got tenure and gradually came to realize that she always had confidence (or hope) that I could make my own way and that I would eventually be able to take on the heavy burden of chairman from which she protected me for twenty years, and whose duties she had augmented by writing 15-page annual departmental reports (a useful and inspiring freewill offering followed by no other department) and by active participation in both Faculty Shows and dorm Christmas parties. She and I shared a scholarly terseness (directness? shyness?—‘the work speaks for itself’) though her work was much sharper and deeper and more lasting. Where we differed was her closeness to students; all summer long, they would come back to check in or ask advice (personal as well as scholarly I imagine, though the wall between our offices was thick), and dozens went on to work in the field or administration. Word was if you thought you were really smart, try “Baby” Greek with Miss Lang. Routinely in my early days, she would have to split this class of 40 by offering one at 8 a.m. (!) along with the 9 a.m. session.”
Stage manager Mabel Lang receives flowers following a Bryn Mawr College Faculty Show (photo courtesy of Bryn Mawr College)
Jenifer Neils, Director of the American School, reflected on her experiences at Bryn Mawr and the impact of Mabel Lang on her personal life and academic career. “Monday through Friday at 8 a.m., I had ancient Greek with Miss Lang. It was intimidating, demanding, addicting, but ultimately satisfying, especially when one could actually read Homer,” Neils said. “That was my introduction to Bryn Mawr College and my first step to becoming an archaeologist. Little did we know at the time that she was the consummate puzzle solver: pieces of the Pylos frescoes, broken tablets scrawled with odd signs (Linear B), and the famously intricate knit socks. Fifty years ago, Mabel Lang sent me to the American School, and look at what has happened since. Having an apartment named after Miss Lang on our campus in Athens is a wonderful and lasting tribute to her legacy here.”
Thanks to the generosity of supporters like Pat McPherson, Peg Healy, Richard Hamilton, and other friends, the Mabel Louise Lang Apartment will accommodate visiting scholars at the School.
About Mabel Lang
Mabel Lang was both an eminent classicist and a brilliant archaeologist, although she always disavowed the latter. Despite her heavy teaching load and administrative responsibilities, her scholarly productivity was astounding: she wrote 13 books and more than 50 articles. Throughout her long career in classics, Lang received numerous honorary degrees, prestigious fellowships, and notable distinctions, including election into the American Philosophical Society and American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Mabel Lang's work ethic and devotion to her students were legendary (photo courtesy of Bryn Mawr College)
Lang graduated with an A.B. from Cornell in 1939 and pursued her graduate studies at Bryn Mawr College (M.A. 1940, Ph.D. 1943). Soon after, she joined the Greek Department faculty at Bryn Mawr and taught there until her retirement in 1988. She bore two distinguished titles at Bryn Mawr: Paul Shorey Professor of Greek (classicist Paul Shorey was in the first class of scholars at the American School in 1882) and Katharine E. McBride Professor. Lang was a highly revered teacher who inspired countless students. Through her immensely popular elementary (“Baby”) Greek course, she introduced nearly a thousand undergraduates to the language. Her graduate seminars on Homer and Thucydides were equally renowned, but even more intense and set a standard in the academic field.
Mabel Lang (standing) acts in a campus production (photo courtesy of Bryn Mawr College)
World War II delayed Lang’s first membership at the School until 1947–1948, but her close bond to the institution would last for the remainder of her life. Lang’s contributions to the School’s publications and excavations were substantial. She authored or coauthored no less than three volumes in the Athenian Agora series—Weights, Measures, and Tokens (Agora X, 1964), Graffiti and Dipinti (Agora XXI, 1976), and Ostraka (Agora XXV, 1990)—and was a contributor to a fourth, The Lawcourts at Athens (Agora XXVIII, 1995). In addition, she coauthored the first edition of the Athenian Agora Guidebook (1954) and wrote five Agora Picture Books, the first volume in the Corinth Notes series, and numerous Hesperia articles. Among her memorable actions while at the Agora was the suggestion that the Stoa of Attalos be rebuilt; this idea was received with enthusiasm, and the magnificently reconstructed building now serves as the Agora museum. Lang participated in excavations at the Agora, Gordion in Turkey, and the Palace of Nestor at Pylos, where she was responsible for the cleaning, reassembling, and publication of the thousands of Mycenaean wall fresco fragments. One of her techniques for working out the scattered fragments’ original positions was said to have been dropping crackers from a high ladder and observing how they broke.
About the Student Center Campaign
The Student Center Campaign was launched in October 2018 to raise funds for renovating and expanding the three aging buildings that serve as the intellectual and residential heart of the American School: Loring Hall, the Annex, and West House. This transformative project will increase housing capacity, reduce energy consumption, add state-of-the-art features and technology, and bring the buildings up to the latest technical standards—all while preserving the complex’s historical appearance. The Student Center will remain the place where members of the community gather for meals, tea, ouzo hour, holiday celebrations, and lectures—a source of lifelong professional and personal relationships that characterize the collegial and intellectually vibrant atmosphere of the School. This modernized setting will enhance that experience and will meet the needs of the School community well into the future.
The goal of the Student Center campaign is $9.4 million, inclusive of a maintenance endowment. Thanks to the generosity of supporters like this anonymous trustee, $6.6 million has been raised to date. The new Student Center is expected to open in June 2021.
Support the Campaign
To learn more about how you can support this historic initiative, please contact Nancy Savaides, Director of Stewardship and Engagement, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-454-6810. Naming opportunities for a variety of spaces in the Student Center are still available. Donors can choose from a wide range of gift levels to name a room or area in honor of themselves, an American School scholar, or a family member, friend, or group. Please click the links below to view the nameable spaces and options that remain:
Student Center Construction Photo Gallery
Click this link to view more photographs of the work in progress.