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President Frank Wu, a Much Needed Ally of Byzantine & Modern Greek Center at Queens College CUNY

  • jcm1980
  • December 19, 2023
  • Comments Off on President Frank Wu, a Much Needed Ally of Byzantine & Modern Greek Center at Queens College CUNY

Center Makes Fundraising Push in Face of CUNY Budget Cuts

In this second episode of the Podcast of the Center for Byzantine & Modern Greek Studies at Queens College CUNY, I speak with the College’s President, Frank Wu, who has emerged as an important ally for the Center as it deals with a cut-off of funding from CUNY. Earlier in 2023 all independent centers at CUNY had to certify that they were capable of self funding. This has provided a challenge to the Center as it prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary with a fundraising gala in Queens on May 17, 2024. 

The Byzantine and Modern Greek Center is the brainchild of the late Professor Harry Psomiades, who left a tenured position in the history department at Columbia University to come to Queens in 1974. Since then, the Center has been arguably the largest Hellenic studies program in the country with more than 20,000 students enrolled over the decades.

Over its 50-year history the Center has gotten substantial support from the Greek-American community, which has funded the dozens of scholarships that help its primarily middle class students cover the cost of their educations. In addition, it received substantial support from various Hellenic and Hellenic-American foundations, one of which helped endow a professorship in Byzantine studies. But as a recent article in Kathimerini, Greece’s leading newspaper, pointed out, Hellenic studies programs around the world are suffering from decreased funding from their host universities, in part because of an emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) over the liberal arts (though this does not appear to be the motivation at CUNY).

In a wide ranging conversation, Wu, a lawyer and legal scholar who has written books on race relations, recounts his upbringing as the child of immigrants from Taiwan and makes connections with the experiences of his diverse student body at Queens, which speaks more than 100 languages. He outlines his vision for a diaspora center at Queens and the vital role the Byzantine & Modern Greek Center plays in the College’s mosaic. And he pledges his support for the Center and expresses his eagerness to work with the Greek-American community to help fund it for the future.

Says Wu, “It’s so important that we have a program that looks at and helps to empower the Greek diaspora.”

I have served on the Center’s advisory council for three decades, a position in which I followed my father, the late Takis J. Metaxas, a founding member of the council in the early years with Professor Psomiades. I have been able to watch all the successes and challenges the Center has experienced. It is comforting to know that as it faces the future, the Center for Byzantine & Modern Greek Studies has College President Frank Wu in its corner.

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