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Getting to Know Greg Jordan, J.D., Executive Director of the Humanities Center

Getting to Know Greg Jordan, J.D., Executive Director of the Humanities Center
Greg Jordan, J.D., executive director of the Humanities Center

A writer, teacher and film producer, Greg Jordan, J.D., executive director of the Humanities Center has authored two books, The Saints are Coming and Willie Mays Aikens: Safe at Home. Filming on The Royal, a movie based on his Aikens book and with the screenplay, penned by Jordan, was completed in November in Augusta, Georgia. He has written several screenplays that have been optioned by producers in Spain and Los Angeles, collaborated on several books and written articles for The New York Times, Vox Media and The Hill, among other publications.  

Jordan earned his bachelor’s degree at Williams College, his master’s degree in fine arts from the City University of New York, and his law degree at Georgetown University. Upon graduating from college, where he wrote his dissertation on the Wyoming Valley, Jordan was the special assistant to Thomas Krens, the director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, when Krens developed the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum by renowned architect Frank Gehry. He recently moved to Northeastern Pennsylvania from Spain with his wife and children to direct the Center. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Jordan was taught by Fr. Pilarz during his teenage years at Loyola High School in Towson, Maryland. 

The Scranton Journal talked to Jordan about everything from his ties to the Wyoming Valley to being Fr. Pilarz's student in high school.

Your parents are from the Wyoming Valley, on which you wrote your thesis in college. What is your connection to this area? 

Both my grandfathers were coal miners. I often visited my grandparents here when I was a child. This area almost instantly possessed, even to a 5-year-old’s imagination, a mythological quality. The thesis was a series of short stories modeled on Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, that tracked the lives of these people in the Wyoming Valley, particularly Pittston: mothers, sons, miners, priests, prison guards, and teachers. 

Coming back was a bit like coming home.   

Fr. Pilarz was your teacher in high school. What was that like? 

He was the first great, great teacher I ever had. I developed a real friendship based on ideas with him. It was the first one of many I’ve had in my lifeand those are really the friendships I seek out the most. We all seek out friendships for different reasons, almost always for personal needs, I think, and I’m blessed that I’ve found many based around ideas and the life of the mind. 

You think having a café in the Center is important; you say this is in part because of your friendship with Fr. Pilarz.  Can you tell us about that? 

I think the energizing exchange of ideas, whether in a formal, structured setting like a classroom, seminar or event, or informal café or meal is the basis what we’re trying to offer here. 

I think what I learned from Fr. Pilarz and his parents, particularly at their home on the Jersey Shore in North Wildwood, is that the dinner table can be one of the most exciting places for intellectual exchange and nourishment that we can have as humans. The Center will strive to replicate that Pilarz ethicthat exchange of casual but vital discussion. 

Why are you drawn to the Ignatian humanities?  

We can advocate for a certain type of humanities called the Ignatian humanities, and that eliminates a lot of the solipsism and political strife that plague some of these so-called elite, liberal arts colleges today. By calling it the Ignatian humanities, we immediately cut to the core of what it means to be a person. Every sacred human being. That cuts to the core of Ignatian values as a Jesuit University, and with Fr. Pilarz’s strong mandate, we think we can bypass a lot of the politicized issues that bog down the study of the liberal arts and humanities at other institutions. We are aggressively Ignatian. 

Watch the inaugural Humanities in Action Lecture here.

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