From the Vassar publication called The Miscellany News:
Professor Robert Pounder will lecture in the Villard Room entitled “Carl and Libbie and Bert and Ida: Re-defining Family.” The lecture will center around Pounder’s research concerning the intertwined relationships between four American archeologists in the first half of the twentieth century: Vassar alumnae, Ida Thallon Hil1, Class of 1897, and Elizabeth Pierce Blegen, Class of 1910, and their husbands Bert Hodge Hill and Carl Blegen, respectively, and will be held on Thursday, March 31 at 5:30.
When he last gave this lecture in December 2009, Pounder examined the lives of these four archeologists and the influence archeology had on the analytical study of ancient civilization. Pounder’s new lecture aims will build on this by exploring these relationships through examining journals and personal letters belonging to the two couples.
These spouses came to re-define popular understandings and notions of “what constitutes a family” by creating a menage to help solve marital problems while strengthening the love they had for one another. Though unconventional, the marriages between these two couples created a family unit which affirmed the love these couples had for one another and lasted for the rest of their lives. Furthermore, Pounder aims to look at the interplay between the personal and professional lives of these archeologists, and how these two facets of their lives were deeply connected.
The work and lives of Elizabeth Peirce Blegen and Ida Thallon Hill have had a long lasting and profound impact on Vassar College as an institution. Blegen was one of the most impartial and influential women classicists in the Vassar Greek and Roman Studies Department. From 1915-1922 Blegen taught ancient art and served as the assistant curator of the Lehman Loeb Art Gallery. Hill also taught as a classicist in the Greek and Roman Studies Department from 1906-1924. Both Blegen and Hill spent the majority of their professional lives in Athens, Greece at the American School of Classic Studies, where they met their husbands. The bond which Vassar alumnae turned professors shared with Vassar as an institution as well as the bond which they shared with one another were exceptionally strong. In Athens, Blegen, Hill, and their husbands shared a house and supported one another professionally, academically and emotionally. During the lecture, Pounder will explore and reflect on the private and academic lives of these four archeologists, and speak to both their individual and collective influences on the progress of archeology in Greece. Aside from examining the impact which these archeologists’ research had on archeology in Greece and here on Vassar campus, Pounder’s lecture will also address the LGBTQ narrative and history of these couples.
The legacy of these couples has also had a profound and lasting impact upon the current-day Vassar College community, which can be seen in the form of the Blegen Fellow, a visiting professor housed annually by the Greek and Roman Studies Department. In addition, their legacy could also be seen in the form of Blegen House, the former Vassar LGBTQ center, now located in the College Center. Blegen House served as Vassar College’s LGBTQ center until 2008 when, due to the College’s financial situation during the recession, the campus LGBTQ center was permanently moved to the College Center room 235 and the former Blegen House became a single-family dwelling for Vassar professors.
Pounder first came to Vassar in 1973 to fill a one-year teaching position while working on his Ph. D. at Brown University. He currently serves as Professor Emeritus in the Greek and Roman Studies Department as well as the Special Assistant to the President of the College. Pounder’s main area of academic interest is Greek inscriptions and he has published several reviews, essays and articles pertaining to the subject. He is also currently working on a book centered on the basis of his lecture.