April 12, 2007
Vol. 26 No. 14

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    This is Bliss: Prestigious prize will aid student in pursuit of becoming a Byzantinist

    By Julia Morse
    News Office

    Nicholas Marinides (right) and a family friend (left) visit with Bishop Chrysostom of Rodostolos (center) on Mt. Athos, a peninsula in Greece where many monasteries have thrived since Byzantine times. Photo courtesy of Nicholas Marinides

    Even as a first-year College student, Nicholas Marinides knew what he wanted to be.

    “He came to my office during the start of his first year here,” Walter Kaegi, Professor in History and the College, said of Marinides, now a fourth-year, “and told me he wanted to become a Byzantinist. From the beginning of his time at the University, he has been motivated, exceptional, modest and incredibly focused.”

    All of Marinides’ determination and hard work as a joint concentrator in Classics and History paid off this year when he became the first-ever Chicago student to win a Bliss Prize Fellowship in Byzantine Studies—an academic award so prestigious, it is only given, if at all, to one recipient each year.

    Administered by Harvard University and Harvard’s Dumbarton Oaks Library in Washington D.C., the fellowship covers graduate school tuition and living expenses for two years, in addition to $5,000 in funding for summer travel and study. When Bliss Prize fellows complete two years of graduate study, they are offered a junior fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks, where they often complete their dissertation.

    “This truly could not be more well-deserved,” said Kaegi, who served as a College Adviser to Marinides and nominated him for the prize.

    Growing up with a Greek father as well as regular international trips to historical landmarks, monuments and holy places throughout the world, Marinides said he has always had an interest in history. But it was during his junior year of high school when he realized that this interest might also be his life’s passion.

    “My father’s friend gave him two CDs of music from the Ottoman Empire,” Marinides said. “The sounds in that music had come from Italy, Greece, Turkey—so many different cultures and languages. It really got me thinking about how that was once the center of the world, and about how many different aspects of life—culture, religion, language, art—had merged there, especially during the Middle Ages, that is, during the life-span of the Byzantine Empire.”

    Marinides will begin working toward a M.A.Ph.D in History at Princeton University in the fall, where he intends to also pursue very specific academic and research ventures, including explorations of the history of religions, religious tolerance, the different confessions of Christianity, how the coming of Islam affected Christianity, and the meeting of cultures, language, music, art and religion.

    He may be putting a lot on his plate, but no one could be better suited for such a challenge, Kaegi said. “Nick is truly an exceptional, motivated, modest young man who has been thinking about his career for a long time,” Kaegi said. “Of course, his academic record is outstanding, but he has really taken his education beyond the classroom. It really is a big part of his life.”

    Marinides said he hopes to use his studies for teaching and theological dialogue involving the Orthodox Christian Church, of which he is a member, while still making his work accessible and useful to the broader world, both academic and non-academic.

    For now, he is just enjoying the present.

    “I feel very fortunate right now. Looking back over the last four years at the University of Chicago, it is amazing to see how much my thinking has changed, how much I have changed, how much I have grown,” he said.

    Marinides is a Student Marshall and a Junior Phi Beta Kappa member at the University.