Harvard philhellenes remembered

Harvard philhellenes remembered

On the occasion of the bicentenary of the Greek War of Independence, Boston’s Greek-American community commemorated on Saturday two eminent Bostonians, Samuel Gridley Howe and Edward Everett, who helped the Greek cause.

The event took place at Mt. Auburn cemetery; among the attendants were former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis and three descendants of Samuel Gridley Howe, the philhellene doctor who also fought for the abolition of slavery in the US. Metropolitan Methodios of Boston said prayers.

Stratos Efthymiou, Greece’s Consul-General in Boston, placed wreaths on the graves of Howe and Everett.

Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-76) went to Greece in 1824, shortly after finishing Harvard Medical School and getting his license: he was following the example of his idol, Lord Byron.

In his three years in Greece, he served not only as a doctor, establishing the first military hospital, but also as a troop commander.

In 1827, he returned to the US to raise funds for Greece; the $60,000 he collected he spent on provisions, clothing and in the establishment of two camps for refugee Greeks, one on the island of Aegina and the other near the isthmus of Corinth.

Howe brought to the US several Greek refugee children to educate them. Some of them became prominent themselves, such as John Zachos, abolitionist and women’s rights activist. 

Another attendee at the service was W. David Power, CEO President of the Perkins School of the Blind, founded by Howe in 1832. After Howe’s death, the school, which counted Helen Keller among its pupils, was directed for 30 years by his son-in-law Michael Anagnos (Anagnostopoulos) from Papingo, in Epirus.

Edward Everett (1794-1865) was, in his youth, a fervent supporter of the Greek War of Independence. Before that, at age 21,he had been named Harvard’s first Charles Eliot Professor of Greek in 1815. 

His travels in the Ottoman Empire, where he met such figures as the poet Lord Byron, had made him a committed supporter of the Greek cause. Once war broke out, Everett acted as a spokesperson for the revolution in the U.S., championing Greek independence in an 1823 speech to the Boston Committee for the Relief of the Greeks, which he had founded and which was credited with rallying substantial domestic support. The orator and statesman would later serve US Representative and governor of Massachusetts before becoming president of Harvard from 1846‒1848 – and a lifelong philhellene. After his Harvard presidency, he also served, briefly, as Secretary of State and US Senator.

“He was a towering intellectual figure of the time,” said Efthymiou.

Toward the end of his life he was the featured orator at the dedication ceremony of the Gettysburg National Cemetery in 1863, where he spoke immediately before President Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address.

[ANA-MPA/The Harvard Gazette/Kathimerini]

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