In 1997, with the creation of the BA / BS in Multidisciplinary Studies, ECU students were first able to obtain a baccalaureate degree with a concentration in Classics. This development brought to fruition the intention of the College of Arts and Sciences to make it possible for ECU students to pursue a degree in this oldest of the Humanities disciplines. The College's effort began in 1991, but the true origins of the Classics program date to the foundation of the University.
In his address inaugurating East Carolina Teachers Training School (ECTTS) in 1909, President Robert Wright (below front row right) said, half in earnest, that this new school was reminiscent of the vision of Pitt academy, established in 1786. That school featured a classical curriculum, as was the norm of the day, and was intended to prepare students for university and seminary. Indeed when North Carolina's State University opened at Chapel Hill in 1795, it had four faculty, the head of whom was a classicist, and the curriculum of the freshman and sophomore years was nearly exclusively devoted to reading the Latin and Greek classics in the original languages. A direct educational influence on the new Pitt Academy was the school at the former colonial capital in New Bern (its leading citizens and Governor Caswell were appointed to serve on the board of Pitt academy), which had a tradition of offering instruction in Greek, Latin and French. When Dr. Wright invoked the vision of Pitt academy, it was in remembrance of the state's first commitment to provide a liberal education to Eastern Carolina. That first curriculum had at its core the Greek and Latin classics, and the classics were to be part, at least, of the new University.
Since this was to be a teacher training school, it was the mission of ECTTS to provide not only the necessary education for teachers in the region, but also educational leadership, so that local school districts, principals, and teachers would have a model and a resource in Greenville. When the school first opened, there were 11 faculty, one of whom was a Latinist, Birdie McKinney (in the back row in black). A graduate of State Normal (Greensboro) and a teacher in the Greenville public schools, she was selected by Governor Jarvis for her mastery of subject and for her reputation as one of the best teachers in the state. She remained through 1921, during which period Latin was the only language offered. She was joined by Latin scholar Daisy Bailey Waitt from 1911-1917, a fellow alumna of State Normal, who attended Cornell and Columbia. She brought high standards, enthusiasm (she directed a 1916 production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream) and leadership: she helped establish a predecessor of the PTA, the "Greenville School Betterment Movement". And she seems to have regretted leaving Greenville so soon.
When, in 1921, ECTTS became East Carolina Teachers College (ECTC), a four-year, degree-granting institution, the Latin curriculum was admirable: two introductory seminars and then separate courses on Catullus, Terence, Tacitus' Annales XI-XVI, Virgil's Aeneid VII-XII, Pliny's Letters, and Latin teaching methods. In 1923 Ralph C. Deal was hired to teach French and Latin. He was a graduate of Davidson (BA, MA) and Union Theological Seminary (BD). Latin continued to be taught until its certification was revoked in 1932, after which it was phased out. This was part of a nationwide movement after WWI. The war, as wars in the past had done, created serious doubts about the relevance of "dead" languages. When Harvard dropped its Latin requirement, the rest of the country soon followed.
Latin was offered as an elective once again in 1964 when Luis Acévez joined the Spanish faculty. Able to speak several languages, including classical Greek and Latin, Professor Acévez kept interest in Latin alive for nearly 30 years. In the 1980s, he was assisted by Michael Bassman and Richard Hattendorf, Professors of French, who each taught a section of Latin in satisfaction of the two year general college requirement in Foreign Languages.
In other departments, interest in the other aspects of classical civilization flourished. In 1970, Anthony J. Papalas, a classically trained historian (PhD University of Chicago) was hired as Professor of Greek and Roman history. Through his efforts, a core of interested faculty formed for the purpose of promoting the Classics at ECU. In the Department of Philosophy, Eugene E. Ryan (PhB, PhL, PhD, Pontifical Gregorian University) joined the faculty in 1968, and served as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 1982-90. With interests in ancient Greek philosophy and Renaissance Aristotelianism, he and Professor Papalas drew up a proposal for a program in Classics in the 1970s which was received favorably by the presiding Dean but not enacted. In the meantime, Professors Ryan and Papalas were instrumental in developing over many years a fine classical collection in Joyner Library.
When W. Keats Sparrow became Dean of the College in 1990, he began pursuing efforts to strengthen the Liberal Arts, to add intellectual depth to College curricula, and to acquire for the University a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. When Peter Standish became Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures in 1991, he proposed hiring a Latinist to free up Professors Acévez, Bassman and Hattendorf for other assignments. Professor Papalas and the Dean (who was himself a Housman scholar) envisioned a larger role for the Classics and its potential contribution to the goals of the College. The Dean immediately formed a Classical Studies Committee of Professors Papalas and Ryan together with McKay Sundwall of the Department of English, Michael Enright of the Department of History, Frances Daugherty of the School of Art and Associate Dean Byron Coulter, and named Prof. Papalas Chair. The charge of the committee was to form a Classical Studies Program based on the inter-disciplinary model of The College of William and Mary, whose program had two specialists, one in Latin, one in Greek, and employed existing courses and expertise to round out the program. A formal Minor in Classical Studies was formulated in 1991-92 and began in fall 1992.
(above: Anthony Papalas, Eugene Ryan, Steve Cerutti, John Stevens). In 1992, the Foreign Languages Department hired Steven M. Cerutti (PhD Duke University) whose enthusiasm in the promotion of Classics led to a number of developments. In 1993, at the urging of Professor Cerutti, the Classical Studies Committee, and the Dean, the Foreign Languages Department hired a Hellenist, John A. Stevens (PhD Duke University).
In 1993-94, Professors Cerutti and Stevens reformed the Latin and Greek curricula, instituting modern texts and standards, and created new courses including four years of Latin, three years of classical Greek, and courses in translation. In 1995 these were added to a revised Classical Studies Minor. Together with the Classical Studies Committee, they also sought authorization to plan a BA degree in Classics. The University endorsed the proposal for a BA, but the UNC General Administration, under pressure from the legislature, was trying to stem the proliferation of new small programs. In its place, in 1996, the UNC-GA proposed that such programs be administered from within a single BA / BS in Multidisciplinary Studies. Professor Cerutti was elected as its first Director from 1997-2001, and under his leadership, the number of students pursuing curricula in Classics grew steadily to the present level of a dozen minors, half a dozen majors, and two graduates per year in Classics. The relationship between the Classical Studies Program, administered by the Classical Studies Committee, and the Multidisciplinary Studies Program, administered by its committee, and the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures (under which fall Latin and Greek instruction) has not always been easy to sort out. When the BA in Classics was proposed, there was some question as to whether it ought to be established within the Foreign Languages Dept. or, as was later decided, as a free-standing degree, around which the College might build a Department of Classics. Moreover, as part of the Classical Studies curriculum, courses in translation were created, and these belonged not to the Dept. of Foreign Languages, but to the interdisciplinary Classical Studies Committee. In large measure due to the attitude of the new Foreign Languages Chair, Sylvie Debevec-Henning, these roles have been sorted out, and there has arisen an appreciation of the mutual benefits of the relationship between Classics and Foreign Languages.
The successful promotion of the Classics was due to a combination of factors: Professor Cerutti offered beginning Greek every semester to establish its presence, and instituted highly popular courses in Etymology and Roman Topography which attract hundreds of students per semester; Professor Stevens worked on developing sound upper division curricula in the languages; and Professor Papalas chaired the program admirably, bringing to campus internationally recognized speakers, mentoring students, and assuring the competency of students in classical history. And even before the Multidisciplinary degree in 1997, the Program offered as much Latin and Greek to dedicated students as they wished to take. The first few students sent to graduate school were all the more to be admired because they had to satisfy requirements for other degrees while taking upper division Latin and Greek courses (agreed by students to be among the most challenging in the University) as electives. In effect, they were all double majors, and Professors Cerutti and Stevens taught double duty.
Although the Classical Studies Program lacks a department and its own baccalaureate degree, it has made the most of considerable opportunities made available to it. In 1996 it was formally incorporated by the College of Arts and Sciences by a charter. From 1995-98 Professor Ryan invited Classics faculty to participate in annual joint conferences on Renaissance Humanism with the University of Ferrara. The support of the College brought increased visibility to the Classics with the appointment of two Whichard Distinguished Visiting Professorships in the Humanities.
In 1997-98, Professor Roger A. Hornsby (PhD Princeton, Emeritus University of Iowa above left) offered seminars on Plato and Vergil to enthusiastic student response (2000 art graduate, Rachel Willoughby, above right, was so moved by his lecture on Aeneid Book VIII that she forged, as a gift to him, a bronze sculpture of Vulcan, the lame god of smithy, repairing his own leg). In 1998-99, the program was fortunate enough to bring in another eminent scholar, Professor Charles E. Fantazzi, (PhD Harvard, Emeritus University of Windsor, Ontario).
Professor Fantazzi is an internationally recognized author in the field of Humanistic Latin, and a Vergilian scholar trained by Wendell Claussen. During the year he served as Whichard Chair he offered seminars in classical lyric poetry and Dante. He has been invited to remain on the faculty as Thomas Hariot Distinguished Visiting Professor of Classics and Great Books. Through his good offices, the program in Great Books has a classical foundation with seminars each fall, Italian has been reintroduced into the curriculum, and the Classics program has enjoyed ties to faculty in Medieval and Renaissance Studies and indeed to distinguished Humanists worldwide.
In the late 1990's, demand for instruction in classics grew strong enough that Professors Cerutti, Stevens and Fantazzi alone were not able to meet the demands of teaching all the levels of Latin, Greek, Italian and courses in translation. From 1994-2002 Professor William Seavey (PhD UNC Chapel Hill), with a background in Classical rhetoric and historiography, taught elementary languages as well as providing specialized courses and one-on-one instruction.
In 2002, the program was joined by Prof. John Given (PhD Michigan), whose background in the Greek Enlightenment is complemented by his expertise in Michigan's unique method of elementary language instruction, and a serious interest in Musical Comedy. The program also welcomed Tricia Wilson-Okamura, a dissertating graduate student at the University of Chicago as part-time lecturer in Greek, and David Wilson-Okamura, editor of virgil.org, to the English faculty. In 1999, the program began maintaining a web page (www.ecu.edu/classics), and in 2000, an ECU Digital Resource Collection pilot project was begun to make Professor Cerutti's excellent slide collection (much of it inherited from the noted Roman topographer, Lawrence Richardson jr.) available on the world wide web in support of his Roman Topography course.
On March 31, 2001, the Classics program hosted the spring meeting of the North Carolina Classical Association. Latin teachers and university faculty from all over the state came to attend a panel on Vergil and the Vergilian tradition, and were impressed both by what the program has been able to achieve in an inter- / multi-disciplinary environment, and by the continuing support the program enjoys from the College. Latin teachers from all over Eastern Carolina once again expressed interest in working more closely with ECU, and asked the program to provide leadership in continuing education in this part of the state. Graduates of the program are beginning to express interest in teaching Latin in the area schools, and President Wright's intentions for ECTTS seem, like the "dead" languages themselves, to be enjoying renewed relevance.
The location of the original Latin programs of ECTTS and ECTC are unknown. Professor Papalas administered the modern Classical Studies Program from his office, A 321 Brewster. And the Latin and Greek faculty hold appointments in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures located in the Bate Building, where the current director resides (at left).
Cerutti, Steven M.
Fantazzi, Charles E.
Papalas, Anthony J.