CHS History

Interdisciplinary Center for Hellenic Studies
A Brief History of the Classical Humanities Society of South Jersey
     In 1972 Drs. Fred Mench and Demetrios Constantelos and some local residents, including Ida Segal of Margate, met to set up a continuing lecture series focussed on the classical world. Fred Mench was chosen president, Ida Segal vice-president, and Eleanor DiDomenici secretary-treasurer. 

     With financial help from the Arts & Humanities Department, about $25 per lecturer for travel expenses, and $3/year optional dues for membership for refreshments, we started bringing in eight people per year for community-oriented talks on Saturdays at noon or Sundays at 2, held in G-209.  Some of the lecturers were from the Stockton faculty (including Mench & Constantelos, but drawing on others from LITT, PHIL and HIST -- and the occasional person from the sciences), but most were establis
hed classical scholars from DE, MD, PA, NJ & NY area colleges and universities, many of them people known to Mench, but most reached by simple phone calls by Mench to U PA, Rutgers, Princeton, Temple, Monclair, U DE, Bryn Mawr and the like. Mench would call the department chairman (or someone he knew on the faculty) and ask who might be willing to come down to the new college in the pines to spread the word to Southern New Jersey. The response was amazing. There was never a shortage of people to come (some of them 2 or 3 times over the years) for the merest pittance of $25 (which some of them, waived). After a few years, Mench would call the department chairmen and ask who was new to the faculty, who might be a good speaker or to the graduate director to ask what promising PhD candidates might want to try out their topics on an audience. Potential speakers were always given free range in their choice of topic, normally something they were then working on but had not had a chance to try out on an audience. We got excellent talks and they got good questions that allowed them to add in details and ideas that had not yet occurred to them.

     In the early days, we offered wine, cheese and crackers. Later, when alcohol on the campus became a problem, we switched to coffee, tea & cider, with cookies or cake. One year we had a grant that enabled us to bring speakers from a bit further (DC, Penn State, NYC), but the college has always covered our postage and helped regularly with our small expenses. Attendance has depended on weather, timing and the like, but has generally been in the 15-25 range. Almost always, the site was Stockton, but we have also used the Noyes Museum.

     Mench remained president until shortly after Ippokratis Kantzios came to Stockton as our Greek person. Mench resigned in his favor and Kantzios continued in the same vein and format until he left a few years later for Florida. Mench resumed presidency for another number of years until the new Greek person, David Roessel, took over. He was followed by Lucio A Privitello, who was succeeded by Katherine Panagakos, the current president.

     The lectures are always free and open to the public. If a person notifies us that they want to be on our mailing list, we send them monthly reminders. If they pay $12 (recently raised from the $3 it had been for 38 years) they are classed as members, but the privileges are the same. It was always the policy to send out a summary of the previous month’s lecture with the reminder of the following lecture.

     See the companion site for the names of speakers, which include some of the best known classicists in the tri-state area.