Ful­bright scheme still thriv­ing

Schol­ar­ships for 2017-18 serve as a re­minder of the pro­gram’s en­dur­ing sig­nif­i­cance

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY MAR­GARITA POURNARA

It was 1949 when a group of hope­ful young sci­en­tists boarded a ship and sailed across the At­lantic, leav­ing be­hind a Greece dev­as­tated by World War II and in the grips of civil strife. They were the first batch of Greeks to re­ceive a Ful­bright Schol­ar­ship to study in the United States, thus launch­ing an ex­change of knowl­edge and know-how that con­tin­ues to this day.

From 1948, when the Greek pro­gram first started (it is the oldest in Europe and the sec­ond oldest in the world af­ter the Philip­pines), and right up to the present, the pro­gram has never stopped send­ing Greek stu­dents to Amer­ica and wel­com­ing Amer­i­can schol­ars, re­searchers and artists to Greece. Among the 5,000-plus stu­dents to have ben­e­fited from the pro­gram over these seven decades, are the likes of theater di­rec­tor Karo­los Koun, poet Ge­orge Se­feris, nov­el­ist, trans­la­tor, poet and es­say­ist Ed­mund Kee­ley, ex­per­i­men­tal theater stage di­rec­tor and chore­og­ra­pher Dim­itris Pa­paioan­nou, Be­naki Mu­seum di­rec­tor An­ge­los De­livo­rias, poet, art critic and art his­to­rian Eleni Vakalo and sci­en­tists and busi­ness­peo­ple who have built ac­claimed ca­reers abroad. An ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence in a for­eign land is life-chang­ing, said the young sen­a­tor for Arkansas Wil­liam Ful­bright, who founded the stu­dent ex­change pro­gram in 1946.

It was the state­ment of a visionary. In­deed, here’s what one of the Amer­i­can schol­ars said at this year’s event pre­sent­ing the Greek and Amer­i­can re­cip­i­ents for 2017-18 and hon­or­ing the pro­gram donors, hosted by US Am­bas­sador Ge­of­frey R. Py­att and his wife Mary at their home in Athens, and at­tended by Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Costas Gavroglou:

“Thanks to Ful­bright, I’ve vis­ited places where our world still seems to touch the world of the gods. I’ve walked along the Acheron River, lis­tened for proph­esy in the rustling oak leaves at Dodona, and felt sta­lac­tites drip onto the back of my neck as a silent boat­man fer­ried me through the caves at Diros. I’ve re­traced Odysseus’ home­ward path through the Io­nian Is­lands and paid trib­ute to mon­sters Her­cules had slain in the Pelo­pon­nese,” said writer and film­maker Steven Ta­gle from Amherst in Mas­sachusetts, who last year par­tic­i­pated in the post­grad­u­ate re­search pro­gram of Thes­sa­loniki’s Aris­to­tle Univer­sity.

Am­bas­sador Py­att noted that what makes the Ful­bright pro­gram great is not just that it re­in­forces sci­en­tific and aca­demic train­ing, but also that the par­tic­i­pants them­selves be­come am­bas­sadors of their coun­try’s cul­ture, his­tory and way of life.

Ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ful­bright Foun­da­tion in Greece Artemis Zene­tou spoke of the huge role played by the donors who have sup­ported the schol­ar­ship since its in­cep­tion, mak­ing it pos­si­ble to help stu­dents even in the tough­est of years. It is this abil­ity that has made the Ful­bright a stan­dard­bearer for mer­i­toc­racy and high-cal­iber schol­ar­ships but also the gen­eros­ity of the donors who rec­og­nize the im­por­tant work it does.

Schol­ar­ships were awarded to 61 Greek and Amer­i­can re­cip­i­ents this year, in fields such as hu­man rights, ar­chi­tec­ture, muse­ol­ogy, crim­i­nal jus­tice, fine arts, mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy, mu­si­cal the­ory, pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion, med­i­cal tech­nol­ogy, communications and so­cial busi­ness ini­tia­tive.

Sixty-one Greeks and Amer­i­cans re­ceived Ful­bright schol­ar­ships this year.

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