The Orthodox Christian Studies program at Fordham has received a $100,000 commitment and a challenge grant of $200,000 to establish a conference examining Orthodox/Catholic relations. The program hopes to build a $500,000 endowment through the initial gift and matching funds.
The conference, which will occur every three years in perpetuity, was created through the generosity of Solon and Marianna Patterson of Atlanta. The first installment is being planned for June 2010.
“This is the largest gift to the program, and it will ensure scholarly conversations and publications in this area for generations to come,” said George E. Demacopoulos, Ph.D., associate professor of theology and co-director of the Orthodox Christian Studies program. “We are honored that Mr. and Mrs. Patterson so clearly value the work of the program, and we are deeply appreciative of their support.”
Fordham now has the charge of raising $200,000 to complete the Solon and Marianna Patterson Endowed Fund, Demacopoulos said.
The Pattersons had no connection to Fordham before they traveled to Istanbul, Turkey in 2004 to see the return of treasured Greek Orthodox relics seized by crusaders 800 years ago. Demacopoulos, who was instrumental in facilitating the relics’ return, also attended the event.
“[The Pattersons] then attended the Orthodox Readings of Augustine conference at Fordham in June 2007 and saw the potential for future conferences that will foster Orthodox/Catholic dialogue,” said Aristotle Papanikolaou, Ph.D., associate professor of theology and co-director of the Orthodox Christian Studies program.
The gift was announced formally earlier this year at the 2008 Orthodoxy in America Lecture, “Women’s Voices Bearing Witness: Biblical Memories in Ancient Orthodox Liturgies.” Among the nearly 200 attendees were the donors’ son and daughter-in-law, Joseph and Caroline Patterson.
Fordham is the only university in the United States to offer an interdisciplinary minor in Orthodox Christian Studies, and has the only theology department in the United States with two graduates from an Orthodox seminary on its faculty.