He was one of the most remarkable professors I met at Princeton - an outstanding teacher!
I met Richard in 1995 when we both taught for the Aegean Institute. He was without a doubt one of the kindest, funniest, and most intelligent people I have had the pleasure to know. it was only in the last few years that we lost touch with each other, and I am sorry for that. I will miss him deeply.
Reading Dead Souls in its entirety in Professor Burgi's Gogol class and attending the opera, Khovanshchina, at the Met on a group night out on the town led by Professor Burgi are precious memories to me of this kind, outgoing and intellectually alive man...Had no idea that his Russian and Greek--were just two among his many languages...
As as classics graduate student fellow of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in 1976-77, I had the great good fortune in the spare time I tried hard to create for it to study modern Greek with Richard Burgi and two other students. We three have gone on to productive academic careers infused with his qualities as a teacher and humanist.
We four--Burgi made us feel like a quartet of equals in much the same way that Socrates must have drawn into his circle those of his interlocutors who were sympathetic to his manner and craved to share in what he thought and felt--read many poems of Kavafy and Seferis and Ritsos. We read a contemporary Greek play and then went and saw and heard it performed. We read detective novels. We absorbed Richard Burgi's aquifer-like passion for the Greek language in all its forms from the second millennium BCE to the present.
My own areas of specialization were the alpha (Mycenaean Greek and the Linear B script) to Burgi's omega. But I still today can read and appreciate modern Greek poems, newspapers, scholarly articles and most recently and crucially a modern Greek folk song for a scholarly article I just had published in the Modern Greek Studies Yearbook, because of Richard Burgi. And I believe I read all those texts and process them and speak about them and explicate them with Richard Burgi's spirit in my soul.
He was an extraordinarily kind and generous teacher. He was devoting his hours to us for no compensation, just because he saw how eager we were to learn something of what he knew.
Richard Burgi lives, I know, in three sixty-year-old hearts and minds as an aner kalos te kai agathos and a didaskalos aeimnestos.
I met Richard at the Athens Centre, when I had already taken some Modern Greek but still had a lot to learn. Richard, however, took our Greek up to a whole new level. With the rest of the class, I discovered the most caring teacher who generously gave of his time and effort to help us discover all aspects of Greek culture. For me, he opened the door to Modern Greek theater--an interest that has stayed with me since. Richard could get us equally excited about the intricacies of the position of the accent on the various genitives plural as about the upcoming performance of Carmen, which, of course, we all attended. For the next decades, we stayed in touch and I discovered that international community of friends and contacts that I'd like to call "The Friends of Richard." We continued to just speak Greek together (why not, really) and followed up on each other's lives. It was one of the most touching moments for me when I could write a dedication to Richard in a recent book of mine, appropriately on the topic of theater. A visit to Athens won't be the same without him there.
Beautifully said, for all four of us.
University of Notre Dame School of Architecture
One of the highlights of my time at Princeton as a Slavic languages and literature student was a class with Professor Burgi on Pushkin's Eugene Onegin. We not only absorbed the poetry and the Russian language but we concluded our reading by imbibing all various champagnes mentioned in it. Still have my copy from that course. A truly delightful and gifted teacher. I greatly regret I did not study Greek with him in Athens when had the chance. He will be greatly missed.
Modern Greek was being offered at Princeton for the first time when I went to study there in 1980, and there were some fliers up in the Graduate College. Almost on a whim, I went to the first class - and was hooked on Richard Burgi forever :-) So much knowledge, so much personality, so much joie de vivre and interest in his fellow humans: Richard was truly one of most remarkable, gifted and generous individuals I've ever known.
In 1985 I got married and had the pleasure of introducing Sheila to Richard. They hit it off famously. Three years later our son was born, and he too came to be an admirer of Richard, who was a fierce adversary at Hangman!
We had the pleasure and the honor of being with Richard during his first visit to Brazil in 50 years. Richard had told me more than once of his fond memories of my country of origin, where he'd served (at a US base) during WWII. It was so much fun to take him around to see the sights, and it was especially touching to witness a meeting between him and the Archbishop of Natal, who opened up his very busy schedule on two hours' notice when he heard Richard was in town. As a seminarian in those long-ago days, he and his family had hosted Richard on weekend leaves, and one could see that the mutual affection, respect and friendship remained intact after all those decades.
Richard enriched my existence in numerous ways. He remains very much alive to me.