In 1979, Pan Papacosta and Karelisa Hartigan believed that students at the University of Florida might be interested in learning the modern Greek language. They offered an introductory course two evenings a week. Their belief was correct: If Greek is offered, they will come.
During the next year Drs. Papacosta and Hartigan worked with the College Office to create a Center for Greek Studies, enlisting the support of Leonidas Polopolus. Again they were successful: the Board of Regents approved the establishment of a Type II Center. Thus was born the University of Florida’s Center for Greek Studies, the only such Center in the State and, indeed, in the Southeast. The Center was inaugurated with a grand ceremony in May, 1981.
In the fall of that year, the first instructor of Modern Greek was hired at the University. Thus did Dr. Aristotle Michopoulos come to Gainesville to teach a full range of modern Greek language courses. He worked with Drs. Polopolus and Hartigan in spreading the word about the Center throughout the State of Florida. Through the ever growing generosity of Greek-Americans around the state, the Center grew and flourished.
Pan Papacosta went on to teach at Stetson and thence to Columbia College in Chicago. Aristotle remained and became the heart and soul of the Center for 6 years. Then he, too, left and took a position at Hellenic College in Boston. The Department of Classics hired Lena Hatzichronoglou, then Dr. Robert Wagman to take on the teaching of Greek, as well as many Classics courses. He regularly guides the Greece Yesterday & Today class, while his Egyptology course enrolls over 100. In the fall of 1995, Mr. Kontaridis was added as an adjunct in Greek Studies. He, too, added many students to the Greek language courses.
In this 20th year of the Center, a second full appointment [has been] made. In the spring of 1979, Hartigan and Papacosta could never have dreamed that their “little class” would develop into a Center which has brought hundreds of students to its classes and rich support (over a million dollars) for its endeavors. And it is still growing.
In January, 2000, the Department of Classics and the Center for Greek Studies appointed Dr. Konstantine (Kostas) Kapparis to the newly created position there. Dr. Kapparis, with degrees from the University of Crete and the University of Glasgow and currently teaching at Queen’s University/Belfast, began his work at the University of Florida in August. He looks forward to meeting all members of Florida’s Greek communities in the near future.