and the


FRIDAY, JUNE 2, 2023


Post-COVID Celebration of the Life and Work of Professor Lambros Comitas at Teachers College, Columbia University


Lambros Comitas PhD (1927-2020)

On March 5, 2020, at age 92, Professor Lambros Comitas, died at Teachers College, his academic home, preparing for a class he was to have taught that afternoon. A week later, the entire nation and eventually much of the world, went into quarantine for the first pandemic in a century.


Admired by both students and peers, Lambros believed that human problems could be resolved through a deep and expansive understanding of human society and that Anthropology held the key to this understanding. He founded the Joint Program in Applied Anthropology in which he advised over one hundred students through their doctoral dissertations. It is likely that if he could be asked today what he thought about the COVID Pandemic, he probably would have responded simply that he was sorry to miss it: What a great study of how the entire world responds to a common crisis that would have been. 

Now, almost two and a half years later, the Comitas Institute for Anthropological Study (CIFAS) and the Teachers College Department of Anthropology invite you to celebrate the life and work of Professor Comitas who created a unique and successful program in applied anthropology at Teachers College and the visionary leadership of the newly appointed, Gardner Cowles Professor of Anthropology and Education, Herve Varenne, who, with his faculty, will guide and shape the future decades of applied Anthropology at Teachers College.

Please join us at Teachers College on June 2 to celebrate this integration of the past, present and future. This will be the first opportunity since the passing of Professor Comitas for TC colleagues and alumni to come together to share their experiences as students and graduates of a unique program in Anthropology. Bring your inimitable “Lambros Stories” from the field to share at lunch and any photographs from the field you are willing to contribute to a post-event memoir compilation.

The day will begin with a champagne breakfast and the dedication of the murals that hung above the table where Lambros met with students and shared his stories from the field. Then on to a rich presentation of the application of anthropological methods and theory to some of the most compelling challenges of contemporary society by Teachers College faculty and alumni. Be sure to bring your own inimitable “Lambros Stories” – preferably in writing - to share at lunch and any photographs you are willing to contribute to a post-event memoir compilation.

Hashish Dialogues

A highlight of the day will be a gift to all attendees of Professor Comitas’ last book, Hashish Dialogues – in which he captures the life histories of hashish users, exposing the culture of Greece from the perspective of those who deviate from it. This long-awaited ethnography, first prefaced in his acceptance of the Gardner Cowles Professorship in Anthropology, is the passion to which he dedicated those rare moments of solitude in his office. Using the ethnographic present, he not only ensures the contemporary relevance of this important work but establishes the inherent dignity and worthiness of all humans throughout time.


We hope you will join us for this special day.


What is CIFAS?

The Comitas Institute for Anthropological Study (CIFAS) was founded by Lambros Comitas and incorporated in the State of New York, in 2002. Named for his father, the purpose of the Institute was to:

(1) initiate and promote systematic, quality research for the development and dissemination of knowledge that will contribute to a better understanding of human societies through the world and

(2) apply that understanding to the equitable amelioration of human problems.

These goals speak to what Professor Comitas viewed as the particular obligation of applied Anthropologists: conducting comprehensive field work to determine the most equitable (and thus most likely to be successful) strategies for addressing social problems. In his vision, it was not sufficient simply to identify and analyze a problem, without using the knowledge derived from fieldwork and cross-cultural comparisons to create the solutions most likely to provide the greatest benefit for the most people (“equitable amelioration”).

Originally designated for the study of human societies in (1) response to disasters, (2) social disparities; (3) drugs and society – particularly the use of therapeutic use of marijuana in Jamaica and (4) Caribbean studies, these categories now have expanded to a universe of relevant social issues worthy of deeper understanding and intervention, e.g. global warming, aging, healthcare, education, world economy and social justice. In accordance with the Comitas commitment to ethnography, once fully funded, the goals of the Institute also will include programs that continue to support the early exposure of Anthropology students to fieldwork and eventually, establish an annual international book award to be named the CIFAS Prize in Applied Anthropology.

In the meantime, thanks to our extraordinary Board and the full support of the Teachers College Administration, we were able to assure:


  • that the historical and intellectual contents of the Teachers College offices occupied by Professor Comitas for over five decades have found their proper resting place at the Smithsonian Institute.

  • that the CIFAS website has continued to remain a safe haven for the fugitive data such as field notes and government reports, unpublished debates, filmed interviews, and photography, preserved for future researchers including students to senior scholars.

  • that the Summer Field School (on-line during COVID) was offered and taught to a truly international student body every summer since 2020; and

  • that the most precious of the unique and ancient books from the extraordinary Comitas library have found a safe haven where they can be protected and sorted for future scholars.


None of this could have been accomplished without the full support of the Teachers College administration and particularly, the Office of the President.

In 2022, the original CIFAS Board of Trustees consisting of Lambros Comitas, Melanie Dreher, and Edwin Gorham Collins was expanded to the eight members who constitute the current Board of Directors, of all of whom will be present on June 2 to answer your questions and provide information about CIFAS. They are in order of their inception on the CIFAS Board: Melanie Dreher, James Hamilton, Tony Barclay, Renzo Taddei, Kenneth Broad, Jake Jomiak, Ellen Schnepel and Gerald Murray. Please look for their name tags and learn more about CIFAS, how to become involved and how it can benefit your scholarship and research.


For more information about CIFAS visit our website at: FIELD SCHOOL – Comitas Institute for Anthropological Study (


Attire for event: Summer business casual – please wear comfortable garments, but if you are an individual who might get chilly in air-conditioned rooms, please bring a wrap or light jacket.




8:45 A.M. Open

9:00 A.M – 9:15 A.M.

9:15 A.M. - 9:30 A.M.

Registration table, guards’ entrance at 525 West 120th Street 

Welcome continental breakfast (with Champagne)

Art display of Professor Lambros’s Mural on second floor hallway of Zankel Wing - commemorative mural and plaque unveiling


Zankel Wing, 2nd Floor Hallway 


9:30 A.M. – 9:45 A.M. 

Move guests to Smith Learning Theater from Zankel Second Floor Corridor


4th Floor of Gottesman Libraries


9:45 A.M. – 10:00 A.M. 

Welcome Remarks by Teachers College President Tom Bailey 

CIFAS Board Member - Melanie Dreher


Smith Learning Theater


10:00 A.M. – 10:45 A.M.

Panel One

Anthropology on Health and the Environment 

Lambros Comitas is best known for his work on the impact of various forms of drug use on the everyday life of people, particularly given socio-economic and physical environments. The alumni on this panel will talk briefly about their own work building on Lambros’ research and under his guidance and encouragement. They have made significant contributions to our understanding of such matters as the contexts of maternal health and nursing, climate change and water use, migration, disability


10:45 A.M. – 11:00 A.M. 



11:00 A.M. – 11:45 A.M. 

Panel Two

Anthropology on Education: Schooling and Beyond 

Lambros Comitas developed his work in a context strongly shaped by his colleague, the historian Lawrence Cremin who understood that work on health and the environment is an aspect of the work that needs to be done to understand the significant role of education in shaping the construction of social and cultural contexts. The panelists will explore matters like language/culture acquisition, mothering, the activism of intellectuals, the shaping of life with HIV, or with children with autism.


11:45 A.M. – 12:00 P.M. 



12:00 P.M. – 2:00 P.M. 

Tributes to Professor Lambros - Celebration of the life and times honoring his work and legacy.



We will connect with former colleagues and share those inimitable “Lambros stories.” while we eat and laugh remembering the man who touched all our lives in so many ways.


2:00 P.M. 

Close of Event


Host Hotel 

The Lucerne Hotel is our host hotel.

The Lucerne Hotel is located 201 West 79th Street, New York, New York 10024, 646.424.3327

We have made arrangements for a few rooms to be at an exclusive rate for the conference till Wednesday, May 3, 2023, but once these rooms are booked other rooms will still be available at the regular standard market rate.

Please use this booking link when making your reservation online.

The Lucerne


You may also use the 800 number:1-800-492-8122, or email:


Ask for: CIFAS -Comitas Institute for Anthropological Study when booking your reservation.


Columbia University also has guest housing available:


Travel Arrangements (Agent) - In case you need assistance with travel arrangements please reach out to the contact below:

Kevin Masci Travel Specialist

Connoisseur Travel, Ltd. 2440 Virginia Avenue NW, Suite 101, Washington, DC 20037

Mobile Number: 703.864.9958

Office Phone: 202.223.1001

After Hours: 800.858.0011





Please respond with your RSVP to the email listed here by Monday, May 22, 2023: 

Please let us know if you have any dietary requirements, we need to be aware of. 


Established in 2002 to stimulate and support studies that will lead to a better understanding of human society and the equitable amelioration of persistent social problems.

Teachers College, Columbia University

To request disability-related accommodations, contact the Office of Access and Services for Individuals with Disabilities (OASID) at, (212) 678-3689, (646) 755-3144 video phone, as early as possible.

You are receiving this communication as a member of the TC community.

Privacy Policy | Unsubscribe and Email Preferences

TC Alumni Experience
Teachers College, Columbia University
525 W 120th St
New York, NY, 10027-6605