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Dr. Stella Tsirka Makes A Gift to Support Hellenic Studies

Stella Tsirka Professor of Pharmacology Stella Tsirka may focus on science when it comes to her career, but she believes the humanities provide critical skills for thriving outside of the laboratory

"People forget that even with our practical and hard science professions, we read the newspaper every day, we are engaged in the political and social life of our community. Humanities, no matter what, constitute a very strong foundation for any person who functions as a citizen," she says.

Tsirka has demonstrated her conviction by making a gift to support Hellenic studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. Born and raised in Greece, Tsirka earned her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Thessaloniki and then came to the United States for her postdoctoral work, joining the Stony Brook faculty in 1998. It was the anticipated birth of her first child, however, that got Tsirka thinking about how to instill an appreciation for Greek language and culture in her child—and in the community. "It has always been a concern and need for me."

In addition to teaching Greek at a church-affiliated Greek school and doing other "small things" to promote her culture, Tsirka got involved with the local chapter of the American Foundation for Greek Language and Culture (AFGLC), eventually becoming its president. Her ongoing activities led her to make a gift to Stony Brook, adding to a $100,000 gift made by Peter Tsantes, treasurer of the AFGLC. The Tsantes and Tsirka gifts, along with another from Nancy Squires, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, are earmarked to support Hellenic studies and ultimately establish a chair in Hellenic Studies at Stony Brook.

All three gifts will be matched by Jim and Marilyn Simons and the Simons Foundation. "In the short term, I hope these gifts will allow us to establish a minor in Hellenic studies by pulling together courses in language, philosophy, history, and art." In the long term, Tsirka hopes a chair will be established to provide "a focal point for both scholarly and cultural Hellenic activities at Stony Brook University and in the community."

Tsirka says Hellenic culture has contributed much to western society, "but I am not so interested in assigning credit to who contributed what. What interests me the most is to allow people to be aware of the impact of the contributions themselves—not because they are Greek, but because they are great ideas."

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