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Philanthropy at Friends

Remembering Phil Schwartz through the Philip E. Schwartz Endowment for the Teaching of Classics

By Sasha High

Friends Seminary has long lauded its extensive language opportunities for students at all age levels. For the 2023-2024 school year, Spanish, French, Mandarin, Arabic, Latin, and Greek are on offer to students, with the former four languages integrated into Lower, Middle, and Upper School programming. It is the Latin and Greek language courses, however, which have been a part of the mandatory curricula for more than 40 years, that particularly set Friends Seminary apart from other New York City schools.

Latin courses include reading excerpts from Ovid’s Metamorphoses while learning declension and conjugation, the myths of Atalanta, Theseus, Perseus, and Medea, excerpts from Cicero, Pliny, Ovid, and Horace, and selections from the Roman Elegists. Themes discussed are: gender and power in myth, intersections between Roman ideals of community and the world around us, journey and exile. In addition to rigorous readings, students complete creative projects such as storyboards, blogs, and skits. These projects encourage each student to examine one’s personal relationship to the modern world and ways the study of Classical languages influences our view of the world.

In Greek classes, students read excerpts of Greek texts in translation as well as engage with podcasts and vlogs. Greek I, II, and III center themselves around the topics of Athens and the Sea, Moral Decay and Political Change, Athens Through the Eyes of Others, and Women in Athenian Society. Courses also engage in the following themes and questions: How do these materials present conflict? Is conflict rooted in tradition? What might we learn about our own engagement with conflict and conflict resolution? How does conflict inform the works of contemporary writers and creators? Are we fixated on conflict--if so, how does this manifest?

The development of these courses, which are offered to Middle and Upper School students, and offer a curriculum that studies not only grammar, speaking and computation, but also literature, art, culture, and identity, requires rigorous design by its teachers. For many years, this work has been done with the support of the Philip E. Schwartz Endowment for the Teaching of Classics, which was established in 1995, and renamed in honor of the former faculty emeritus and beloved Latin and English teacher, upon Phil’s retirement in 2014. In the 2022-2023 academic year, the endowment provided $25,000 for the Modern and Classical Languages Department. This is a tremendous contribution that allows the School to respect the incredible legacy that Phil helped to create and also ensure that its programming continues to be rigorous.

We chose to highlight this endowment this month as we remember Phil, former faculty emeritus, beloved Latin teacher, and friend, who passed away in November, 2023. During his time at Friends, Phil was a teacher of English and Classical Languages, Department Chair, Dean of Students and coach of two sports. Phil’s memory and legacy will live on in this endowment.


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