I have an enduring debt to the late Professor Anthony Vidler (In Memoriam, December issue). Few students knew him as I did. He was my preceptor during his first semester at Princeton. As a senior, I served as his research assistant. And in 1972 as I was completing my M.Arch. degree, he invited me to join his recently established Ph.D. program in architectural history. Kriti Siderakis ’82 *88 (Inbox, February issue) is right to remind Princetonians about the certificate program for which Professor Vidler had once served as director, the European Cultural Studies Program.
And yet, to Princeton’s credit, this was not an innovation. As an undergraduate, I participated in the Special Program in European Civilization (SPEC), directed by Romance languages and literatures professor Blanchard Bates *41. This was a certificate program that allowed students to take three of their eight departmental courses in any other departments and to write an interdisciplinary senior thesis not bound by the customary departmental strictures. SPEC had been created in 1950 and first directed by Professor Ira Wade *24. Those of us who were Professor Bates’ thesis students in 1968-69 had the rare privilege of working with Professor Wade for one semester, when he came back from retirement to replace Professor Bates on sabbatical.
In 1973 Professor Vidler and history professor Carl Schorske created the Western Cultural and Historical Studies program, which merged with SPEC in 1975 to become the European Cultural Studies Program, still in operation nearly three-quarters of a century after SPEC had been initiated. All four of these men were intellectual giants.