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University of Toronto professor receives prestigious MacArthur Fellowship

September 29, 2015

“Genius grant” with no strings attached, encourages creativity for the benefit of humanity

Toronto, ON – Dimitri Nakassis of the department of classics has been recognized for his extraordinary originality and future promise with a MacArthur Fellowship.

“Nakassis is a classicist transforming our understanding of prehistoric Greek societies,” reads the citation on the MacArthur Foundation website. “His rare intellectual breadth, comprising philology, archaeology and contemporary social and economic theory, has equipped Nakassis to challenge the long-held view that Late Bronze Age Mycenaean palatial society (1400–1200 BC) was a highly-centralized oligarchy, quite distinct from the democratic city-states of classical Greece.  Instead, he proposes that power and resources were more broadly shared.”

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awards the $650,000 USD grants directly to talented individuals to pursue their creative activities. Recipients are free to use their award to advance their current expertise, engage in bold new work or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direction of their careers altogether.

For Nakassis, intellectual curiosity has proven a trustworthy career guide. “What draws me to survey, I’ve realized lately, is the urge to hike to the top of a hill to see what’s up there – most of the time it’s nothing, but that makes the successes all that more exciting – the urge to turn down a road or path to see where it heads.”

But, he notes that archaeological surveys and excavations are also full of surprising moments where “you have to rethink what you thought was happening, your old interpretations of the landscape or the site.”

The University is thrilled by the Nakassis’ honour. According to Christer Bruun, chair of the department of classics at U of T, the awarding of the MacArthur Fellowship to Nakassis “is a recognition of the fact that some of our brightest young scholars continue to be attracted to the study of the humanities and, in Dimitri’s case, in particular classical antiquity.”

“I look forward with great anticipation to the discoveries which the fellowship will allow him to make,” said Bruun.

Nakassis is the first professor at U of T to receive a MacArthur Fellowship and joins an illustrious and diverse group of 2015 fellows that includes journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, puppetry artist Basil Twist, neuroscientist Beth Stevens and Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda.  U of T alumna, Sara Seager, received one in 2013. Last year, U of T’s Citizen Lab, became the first Canadian organization to win the MacArthur Foundation’s Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, the version of the “genius grants” awarded to organizations.


For more information, contact:

Kim Luke
Director, Communications
Arts and Science, University of Toronto

Media Relations
University of Toronto Communications