A Good Investment

A Good Investment

J. Fotopoulos“Greek language and Greek culture were emphasized in my family as long as I can remember,” says John Fotopoulos, an assistant professor of Religious Studies at Saint Mary’s. “It wasn’t an option.”

It’s not an option for his students either. Focusing on New Testament studies, Fotopoulos examines the Bible by situating it in its historical context. “You have to understand the Greco-Roman culture that early Christians lived in to be able to see how a given text would have been understood by the author and the original audience,” he explains.

This is the idea behind the Greece Summer Study Program , an experiential learning excursion Fotopoulos began when he was working on his PhD at Loyola University Chicago, and has continued at Saint Mary’s. Each summer for 18 days, Fotopoulos takes students to Greece to immerse themselves in the surroundings of the first Christians. “It’s the logical extension of who I am and what I do,” he says, “and it’s the best way to open the texts to the students—by letting them step into this Greco-Roman world.”

Fotopoulos is convinced that Saint Mary’s is an exceptional place. “The students are just thirsty with great questions, and the Religious Studies faculty members are incredible. Saint Mary’s is a good fit for me.” The College community agrees, and awarded him the Maria Pieta Award for teaching excellence in 2006.

“It’s a real privilege to teach students who are interested in what they’re doing and to hear them make connections—it’s almost hard to believe that people would pay me for doing this. I think I’d do it for free,” he says with a laugh. “Don’t tell anyone.” Fotopoulos feels a responsibility to his students to know as much as he can and pursues his own scholarship actively. He has authored three books, most recently, New Testament and Early Christian Literature in Greco-Roman Context.

Fotopoulos says that family—a principal element of Greek culture—is the most important part his life. “When I was growing up, my father always said, ‘Your name is the most important thing you have, John. Do nothing to bring shame on it, and do everything you can to honor it.’ ”

Education is one way to accomplish that. “The more well-informed you are—the more you realize you don’t know and the harder you work—that’s not just investing in yourself. It’s investing in your family and in the world.”

–Megan Osberger ’07