Please see Alumni Roster for all Classics alumni.
A Virtual Classics Reunion: May 2020
With Amherst's usual alumni events cancelled on account of the current pandemic, the Classics Department invited its graduates to contribute notes by way of a virtual reunion. We asked them to share recollections of their time at Amherst, to reflect on how their Classics education asserts itself in their post-Amherst life, or to simply trumpet their good news. Enjoy their responses below; it's not too late to send one of your own!
Kingsley Smith '50
I wondered why I have waited to throw out the texts and papers I have been carrying around since 1950—now I know that maybe somebody else cares!
I see the Classics Department is still at Grosvenor. That follows how Reuben Brower began our Greek 1-2 class on a September day in 1946 in Johnson Chapel Room 1: "Gentlemen [we were all gentlemen in those days], Greek has been taught in this room since 1829." I had begun the transition from a student to a scholar.
Ross Holloway '56
I was glad to get your email and just want to report that I'm in there pitching, although held back in various ways by the stroke I suffered last summer. It is great to see such life in the department, a far cry from the days when John Moore and Wendell Clausen held forth on the third floor of Converse. Ave atque vale.
Jim White '60
When I was at Amherst, the Classics Department leaders were Wendell Clausen, later at Harvard, and the legendary John Moore. I was also a student in the English department and loved going from one literature to another and then back again. When I got an MA in English at Harvard, my most influential teacher was Rueben Brower (formerly of Amherst), who a was model for someone interested in the relations between these two literatures, and the languages in which they were written.
Donald J. Mastronarde '69
I then went to law school. While I was there, I was a section teacher in a basic humanities course at Harvard, entitled “Epic and Drama,” which naturally dealt with many classical texts in translation.
After some time in practice I became a law professor, ultimately at Michigan, interested especially in the relation between law and humanities. Classics was a permanent part of my life as a person and a scholar. In my books there are chapters on the Iliad, Thucydides, Plato’s Gorgias, the Philoctetes, Plato’s Crito, the Odyssey, the Phaedrus, and Athenian tragedy more generally. As for teaching, I think I taught every one of these texts, often several times, in courses on law from the perspective of literature and culture more generally.
For fifteen years in Ann Arbor I met with Gerda Seligson, a retired classics professor, once a week to read Greek. In my retirement, I meet once a week by phone with a colleague at Colorado College, reading Augustine in Latin, and I meet once a week with a colleague here in Ann Arbor to read Greek—at the moment, the Iliad.
I have happy memories of Classics at Amherst, especially in my work on Euripides. I hope you are able to continue to teach the languages!
Emeritus Melpomene Professor of Classics
University of California, Berkeley
I am pleased to announce that Release 1 of my open-access online edition of the scholia on Euripides, Orestes 1-500, has been officially launched (on May 1, 2020) at EuripidesScholia.org
Stephen C. Farrand '77
I've never written in to contribute to Classics Alumni News, largely because I've mostly worked as a high school teacher, and that is a line of work I've never been inclined to trumpet to the Amherst community, after giving up on completing a PhD in 1984. But now, largely retired from teaching, I find that I can look back with more perspective. I can't recall a single career conversation with my Amherst mentors in any case, something I do hope has changed since my time.
In the last dozen years or so, I've become very interested in speaking Latin, and have studied with some of the continent's skilled practitioners: Terry Tunberg, Milena Minkova, Alexis Hellmer, Jim Dobreff and a number of others. I think my interest in learning to use Latin actively goes back to my Amherst days and to performing Greek Tragedy in Greek with Rachel Kitzinger in 1976-77. Of course, memorizing reams of Ancient Greek is not the same as acquiring the language (as some language teachers now like to say), but it is a start. In any case, summer Latin immersion programs have completely changed how I understand the language, largely without recourse to English. With real effort over time, I have learned to turn off the internal translator that I developed over many years. And it is Peter Marshall and Rick Griffiths at Amherst who deserve the credit for the quality of that internal translator (with no responsibility for its deficiencies!).
I've also learned to turn this translating machine back on selectively. I'm working on a translation of an American children's book into Latin and an original novella for intermediate readers (the plot is set in the first century BCE and involves historical characters, but the rest is a secret). But on the front burner for now is a Renaissance Latin project: I'm translating the letters of Hubert Languet (1518-1581) to Augustus the Elector of Saxony, the letters' first time in English. Languet was a diplomat, humanist and Huguenot who worked for decades to promote cooperation among the Protestant states in Europe. His letters to Augustus report on events throughout Europe from the 1560's until a month before Languet's death. It's work quite far from my areas of specialization, but I find myself learning a lot about 16th-century Europe and my client for the translation (a Harvard psychiatrist) is aware of my shortcomings.
One other set of Languet's surviving letters are of particular interest. He corresponded with Sir Philip Sydney fairly regularly over 15 years or so and effected introductions to many leading scholars and diplomats all over Europe. There is reason to think that Languet was in love with Sydney during their association. I look forward to spending time with this correspondence as well.
Oh, and I've acquired a plush toy mammoth, who sits on my desk. She needs a mammoth dentist. Her name is Emily for now, but, once the pandemic abates, she will go to a Latin-speaking friend in Stockholm, who recently had a son. He'll have to name her.
Has cura ut valeas ever seemed more timely?
Joanna Rifkin '09
In my post-Amherst life as an evolutionary geneticist, I'm always the only one in the room who can explain what species names mean, and I have a solid edge with unfamiliar scientific vocabulary! During graduate school, I turned my language-learning interests toward studying Yiddish for fun. After defending my PhD at Duke in 2017, I moved to Toronto for a postdoc. I thought I'd improve my French after moving to Canada, but if anything, the influence of Anglophone Canadians is making it worse.
Warm wishes to anyone who remembers me from the class of 2009.
Ryan Milov '10
Since graduating as a classics major, I've taught high school literature (summer session) and, by a stroke of good luck, found myself back at Amherst working a part-time-full-time job in the Dean of Students Office. My days outside of work are filled, mostly, with reading and walking and thinking, and music and cooking and conversing. I have tried to grow some plants. Most have died, but the experts (some of whom are hiding behind mantles as "classics professors"!) assure me that learning to make things grow takes time. I am doing what I can to keep Greek and Latin alive in me, and I have begun my study of Hebrew. I have no idea where I am going next, but, most of the time, I am not too concerned.