Fairfield Now - Spring 2009
In the Steps of the Ancients
Alumni Relations will host a tour of historic Greece for Fairfield grads
By Nina M. Riccio
Thalia Cocconi '92
It was probably inevitable that Thalia Cocconi '92 would grow up fascinated by the travel business. After all, her family's firm has been organizing study tours for American universities and delighting tourists with the highlights of their native Greece for 35 years.
Now, through her friendship with one of her professors, Fairfield's Art History Professor Dr. Katherine Schwab, Cocconi will be leading a 10-day tour of the ancient historic monuments of Greece in the spring of 2010, a tour specifically for Fairfield University alumni and organized out of the University's Office of Alumni Relations. Dr. Schwab will act as lecturer, with Thalia Cocconi, of course, handling the logistics.
Fairfield has sponsored many trips before, but this is the first run through Alumni Relations in conjunction with the academic division. "It's particularly special, because alumni and faculty are collaborating to give a unique edge to the whole experience," said Director of Alumni Relations Janet Canepa '82, who is hoping to join the fun in Greece next spring. "We're really tailoring the trip for them."
"It is an honor for me that my University is coming to Greece," said Cocconi. "We're hoping to keep the group small, so that we can stay in some of the older mansions that have been turned into boutique hotels. And along with visits to Olympia, Delphi, and Crete, I'm arranging for some fun cultural things - like a wine tasting evening in Santorini and maybe a folk dancing demonstration."
One of those alums already signed up is Tom Franko'69, who serves on the College of Arts and Sciences Board of Advisors. What is he looking forward to the most? "I'm a person who likes to learn, and I've already started reading about the culture and history of Greece. Naturally, it makes more sense when you can see it all physically," he said, adding, "And a little sunshine doesn't hurt either."
As a girl growing up in a suburb south of Athens, Cocconi knew she wanted to come to the United States for college. She chose Fairfield on the strength of its communication program, graduating in 1992. Then she took a job with Euro Disney outside of Paris for a year before moving to Boston to get her master's degree in hospitality management. To round out her experience, she spent time working for American Express and STA Travel, the student travel agency, which was "great exposure to bigger companies that helped me realize that I liked the business my family had better," she said.
The west façade of the Parthenon; Caryatids, the famous "Porch of the Maidens" at the Erectheum, a temple on the north side of the Acropolis; a view of the Acropolis from the Pnyx, a central hill in Athens and the meeting place of the Athenian assembly
Cocconi's been with the family firm, known as Educational Tours and Cruises, for eight years, now serving as operations manager - the perfect position for someone who speaks six languages and works with people from all over the world. "I love to get people interested in Greece and show them the cultural wealth that Greece has to offer," she said.
Given the nature of her business, it was only natural that Cocconi would represent her family's company at the Archaeological Institute of America annual meetings, held in the States. It was at one of those meetings several years ago that she spotted Dr. Schwab.
"I had taken an introductory art history class with her," Cocconi recalled. "She has a real ability to capture your attention and to explain art in a very illuminating way. I remembered her so fondly."
Dr. Schwab, whose specialty is ancient Greek art and archaeology, has spent the last several years doing research on Parthenon metopes, the square-shaped marble relief sculptures above the columns of ancient buildings.
Over the course of her numerous trips to Greece, Dr. Schwab also struck up a relationship with renowned Greek photographer Socratis Mavrommatis, the official photographer of the Acropolis restoration project. His strikingly lit, black and white photographs of the Parthenon had never before been seen in the U.S. - until his connection with Dr. Schwab paved the way for his exhibit's American tour to begin at Fairfield in 2004.
The Theatre of Dionysus and New Acropolis Museum viewed from the south wall of the Acropolis.
At a dinner celebrating the exhibition opening, fueled by a newfound interest in all-things-Greek, Susan Alexander '78, now chair of the College of Arts and Sciences Board of Advisors, cornered Dr. Schwab and commented on how much she would love to take a trip to Greece, "and I told Kathy I wanted her to lead it," Alexander recalled. "I told her it would be great to do a trip that was really meaningful, that centered on her expertise. It started with a lot of kidding at first, but it was one of those things that just came together."
Anyone interested in the trip to Greece next spring should contact Janet Canepa at the Office of Alumni Relations: (203) 254-4280 or firstname.lastname@example.org.