Thursday, July 29, 2010

Potential Donor Profile: Jeff Modisett

Harry and I are in the process of filling all sorts of grants for public funding for our effort to raise money to remove all the sand from the Martyrium of St. Mark, the original 'gnostic' church of Clement of Alexandria. We also hope to find the lost temple of Alexandrian Judaism near by in the waters.

I thought I would keep my readers appraised of some prominent members of society that I am in the process of hitting up for donations. I have been googling any possible patrons to help raise the $60,000 necessary to pay for the underwater expedition. I tried approaching all sorts of academics who might have an interest in this discovery but - surprise, surprise - scholars are not a wealthy lot.

That's why I am so intrigued with what I read about Jeff Modisett, a partner at Bryan Cave LLP whose success led to the following interview in the Los Angeles Business Journal:

What do you read?
I have found myself in recent years to be really fascinated with religious history. I’ve spent a lot of time reading, whether it’s the Gnostic Gospels, or “Evolution of God” by Robert Wright, or a lot of Karen Armstrong, like “The Battle for God.” It’s kind of a way of satisfying a part of me that used to get that satisfaction in church.
Why specifically religious history?
OK, fair question. The honest answer is that my youngest son became obsessed with a videogame called “Civilization.” So he started asking me all these questions about the beginning of civilization, the history of the Middle East, the Roman Empire, and it just got me thinking about it.
What’s the most interesting thing that you’ve learned?
The most interesting is to see the direct correlation between the growth of particular religions and politics. You know, why were the Muslims in Spain? And why were the Jews in Spain, and why were they driven out? In other words, a country has a particular religion now, yes, in part because of their belief in that religion, but you can’t remove that from the political history of that area. I mean, where would we be today if Constantine had not adopted Christianity? What if Henry VIII hadn’t changed the Catholic Church in England to the Church of England?
Do you practice now?
Oh, we experiment. We’ve gone up to some of the churches in the South Bay area where we live. I’ve also taken my son to the Lake Shrine up here on Sunset. It’s more of a spiritual enclave. The yogi masters, they don’t necessarily reject Christianity or Buddhism or Hindu. They try to see the commonality of religion.
Do you consider yourself a believer?
Still asking questions. There have been a lot of things written by Elaine Pagels, who’s an expert in Gnostic Gospels, and I think the idea there is you keep asking questions and looking inward for God, instead of outward.
Did you use to go to church regularly?
When I was in elective office. (Laughs.) We loved the church we went to in Indianapolis. It was a Methodist church and the minister there was the brother of Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton, who was one of my inspirations in politics.
Are you saying you went more because of politics than personal belief?
No, not necessarily more. I think it’s fair to say that it just added to the experience.
Is it hard to balance work life and family life?
Yeah, but no harder than it is for anybody else. There are times when work suffers and there are times when family suffers, and you try to make sure that between the two that you err on the side of giving time to the family if you can.
Any interest in going back to public office?
Not really, because I found other ways to have an impact, and I still do work with attorneys general on a daily basis. And here in California you can spend $10 million on a primary and still not win. It’s just not feasible anymore.
TITLE: Partner
FIRM: Bryan Cave LLP
BORN: 1954; Windfall, Ind.
EDUCATION: B.A., UCLA; M.A., Oxford University; J.D., Yale University
MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSON: Earl Wysong, his high school social studies teacher. “He taught me to think for myself.”
CAREER TURNING POINT: Returning to Indiana to work for Evan Bayh’s gubernatorial campaign.
PERSONAL: Lives in Manhattan Beach with his wife, Jennifer, and two sons, Hunter and Haden.

Anyone who wants to make a donation please contact me at and I will direct you to Harry's organization the Hellenic Institute for Ancient and Medieval Alexandrian Studies.

Email with comments or questions.

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