Alum Blog Post: Studying the Classics as Pathway to Understanding and Liberation

Meredith Coolidge ’19 is teaching English and tutoring Latin at the Young Men’s Leadership Academy at Wheatley in San Antonio, TX, through the Teach for America program. At Holy Cross Meredith was a double-major in Classics and Political Science, and in 2018-19 she served as Student Government Association Co-President.

The classics major at Holy Cross is distinct because of its Jesuit affiliation. I was fortunate to take classes with professors and on course material that encouraged me to unlearn or see differently many of the ways the classics has been applied throughout history. By the end of my college career, I found myself reading the classics from a new perspective, namely, “How does this inform how I am becoming a person for and with others?”

Through Teach for America, I was placed in San Antonio, TX as a high school teacher at a Title 1, all-boys, public charter academy. Our school is located on a historically-black campus named for famous classicist and poet Phillis Wheatley.

Meredith in her classroom at the Young Men’s Leadership Academy at Wheatley.

Studying Latin is especially useful for my English Language Learners. I acquired an ESL certification because most of my students speak Spanish, and Latin has been a helpful way to contextualize commonalities between the Spanish and English languages. It also helps my students, most of whom will be the first in their families to graduate from high school, stand out with rigorous course loads as they consider applying to colleges like Holy Cross. I don’t know if there is anything more substantial to set up students for the rigor of a college education than requiring Latin beginning in middle school.

As an English teacher/Latin tutor, I try to find ways to make Latin “cool” and “relatable” (and not just because my kids perhaps ironically call me Ms. Cool). We’ve played word games with Latin prefixes, read mythology, and applied Latin syntactical principles to better understand the functions of English words, which has already improved my kids’ writing and reading comprehension. Explicitly teaching a critical subject (a core, state-tested one) but having a Classics background has helped normalize taking Latin for my students and colleagues.

I did not anticipate my Teach for America experience to be so profoundly influenced by my undergrad major, partially because before I left Holy Cross, I didn’t always see the link with liberation that I see now. I’ve realized my favorite classics courses at Holy Cross were ones in which I saw strong female characters or read texts I could relate to; I am hopeful that by framing characters in classical texts as liberators, my students can see themselves in the Ancient World. The themes in classical texts can be mostly universally applied to contemporary human experiences. It might be a stretch, but focusing on such commonalities in our shared human experience could help heal our increasingly polarized modern world.

Classics & Chemistry major Chris Puntasecca ’19 to attend Stanford Medical School as a Knight-Hennessey Scholar

Greetings from Nijmegen, NL, where the nomina (and omina?) of many Romans lurk

Prof. Thomas Martin sends a dispatch from his trip to the Netherlands over October break.

About the same population as Worcester, Nijmegen is said to be the oldest city in the Netherlands, dating back to the late first/early second centuries CE. I don’t believe there are too many long-term Roman settlements north of here, so this is close to the northernmost edge of Roman expansion on the northwestern edge of the European continent (not including Great Britain).

Nijmegen is said to be from the Roman name given to this settlement of Romans and ancient Belgians in the very early second century, which was Ulpia Noviomagus Batavorum. Noviomagus is said to be a Romanization of a Celtic phrase meaning “New Market” or perhaps “New Field.”

Not too far from the neighborhood where I am staying at the house of my daughter and her family, there is a collection of streets running along the side of a hill that stands parallel to a tributary of the Waal River, one of the two rivers in Nijmegen and itself a tributary of the Rhine River. These streets boast striking (for Classicists!) names. Photos of a selection of the streets’ signs and appearances are below.

The first photo shows the street sign for what would have been a cool address for hippie Latinists in San Francisco and Berkeley in the 1970s. (I won’t reveal how I know that there were hippie Latinists in San Francisco and Berkeley in the 1970s!)

The second photo shows the street associated with the first street sign. It seems fitting, given the often acerbic tone of author whose name is attached to the street, that it is a “Private Way.”

The third photo shows a street sign designating the “plaza” or “area” of a particularly dyspeptic early Roman Emperor. Given his distinctly-less-than-warm-and-fuzzy reputation, its seems ironic, as shown in the fourth photo, that his “area” is a inviting, grassy park in which children play soccer!

The fifth photo shows a street sign associated with a Roman Emperor said to have been more personable. It is then fitting, in his case, that his street (the sixth photo) also flanks an area where children play.

The seventh photo shows in the distance the narrow branch of the river beyond the hill where these streets lie, in a district perfectly suited for watching with care the traffic on the water, to try to see if it was bringing friendly visitors or hostile raiders.

Reflection on four years at Holy Cross by Stephanie Neville ’17

During the 2017 Commencement Week, Classics major Stephanie Neville ’17 read the following reflection to classmates at the senior luncheon. Stephanie, who is from Grand Island, NY, began the study of Latin and Greek at Holy Cross and was a four-year member of the Manuscripts, Inscriptions, and Documents Club. This summer Stephanie will continue her internship at Dovetail Internet Technologies in Worcester, and in the fall she will begin as a law student at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, VA.

Beginning on move-in day at Holy Cross, we were encouraged to Live the Mission. We were told to be men and women for others. And as first year students we nodded and went along with it because I do not think that any of us truly understood what those phrases meant at the time. For each of us, however, as we spent our days trekking between buildings on Mt. St. James, we came to understand the significance of those words in a different way, and we came to see how we could apply these terms to our everyday lives.

In my own experience, I came to understand these words in my attempt to create a college bucket list, as I imagine many of us attempted at one point or another. Early on during my Holy Cross career, I jotted down a list of 25 tasks, some more generic than others, that I hoped to complete before I graduated. I then saved my list so I could return to it and mark off those experiences as necessary. Spoiler alert, I never completed all of the tasks on that list.

Not long after I made this list, I felt that something was just not quite right about it. While studying outside in the Hoval and finding the fourth floor of the science building, as a humanities major, were interesting experiences, these did not seem to mean as much to me as the small yet meaningful moments that I increasingly experienced as I met more people on the Hill. So, as a typical Holy Cross student would, since my first list just did not live up to my expectations of what I had hoped it would be, I did the only logical thing: I made a second list. Although this list was a little different from my first, it was something my roommate and I referred to as a nectar list. Whenever I had a new and often unanticipated experience in my life that I felt had meaning to me, I wrote it down in a list. Pretty soon, I had recorded over two hundred moments that I might have otherwise forgotten, like that time the RA knocked on my door on a school night because my roommate and I sang along to Les Mis a little too enthusiastically or the first time one of my professors invited me to office hours just to talk with me about how I was enjoying my classes so far.

Stephanie (second from left) with classmates Drew Virtue, Melody Wauke, and Charlie Schufreider during Commencement festivities.

Looking back at the moments I included on my nectar list, it is clear that the experiences that seemed to mean the most were the everyday and even mundane moments that I had the pleasure of sharing with all kinds of people that I was able to meet. We can all think of people who helped to make our college experience meaningful for us, of the passerby who became a mentor, of strangers who became family. Years from now, when we look back at our time in college, of course we are going to remember those monumental experiences we had, such as when we boarded a plane to study abroad or when we formally declared our major. But when we reflect on what this time actually meant to us and how it shaped the people we are today, we are going to think of the fleeting moments we shared with people who have come to mean the world to us. We are going to think of scouting out tables in Dinand, of asking a friend to swipe us into a dorm when we lost our ID, of waiting in line on chicken parm night at Kimball.

And when we look back at those small moments, those will be the moments that we can look back upon to see how much we’ve grown. When I look back at my list, I am able to see a progression of a timid freshman who fell on the Fenwick stairs on to a more seasoned and a much more comfortable Holy Cross student who tried my hand at cooking in the apartments and who ventured to explore the area around Holy Cross like the Worcester Art Museum, the Blackstone movie theater with discount movie Tuesdays, and other areas of New England that I had never visited.

By choosing to embrace our identity as Holy Cross students, we have already begun to Live the Mission. By immersing ourselves in this incredible community in whatever ways we have found ourselves called, we have played a role both in shaping each other’s experiences and in growing as individuals. Even the smallest moments we have shared with friends or acquaintances on campus or in the Worcester community can have an impact, as we never can fully comprehend how our words or gestures can take effect. Even a passing smile or an open door can make all the difference to someone. At Holy Cross, we have learned how to be open to sharing those moments with those we have been blessed to have around us. As a class, we have served as orientation leaders, served as club leaders, congratulated our classmates who have won Fulbrights or secured jobs, and proofread essays for our peers. In whatever way the opportunity has presented itself, we have learned to support each other, and we have learned how to extend those gestures of support to those beyond the Holy Cross community. Many of us have participated in international or domestic service trips, have served as big brothers and sisters, and have led fundraisers.

I think it’s fair to say that we’ve put in a lot of hard work into our education, our relationships, and our growth as men and women for others. But this is only one milestone in our journey. As we move forward to the next phase of our lives, we must continue to embrace the small moments in life and recognize the beauty in sharing these with the people around us. With this mindset, we can be open to new experiences and to reaching out to new people. With this mindset, we can continue to expand our own definitions of what it means to Live the Mission and to be men and women for others. What are the small moments that you have experienced at Holy Cross that have shaped who you are today and who you want to be?

Eta Sigma Phi’s “Homerathon” brings the Odyssey alive on campus

Michael Kelley ’18, Melody Wauke ’17, Charlie Schufreider ’17, Hanna Seariac ’20, Jeffrey Dickinson ’19, and Allyn Waller ’18 at the Homerathon donation table.

On Wednesday, April 19, the student Classics society Eta Sigma Phi hosted the College’s first Homerathon, a daylong reading of all twenty-four books of Homer’s Odyssey to the campus community. The event, which took place in the Hogan Oval, was a fundraiser for Ascentria Care Alliance, a local organization devoted to immigrant and refugee resettlement.

For more on the event, see:

*the story in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, titled “Epic tale: Entire Odyssey read at Holy Cross to benefit refugees

*the piece on the Holy Cross news site, titled: “Holy Cross Takes on Sirens and Cyclopes with Marathon Reading of the ‘Odyssey’

*a timelapse of the first several hours of the Homerathon on YouTube

Liam O’Toole ’20 braves the elements, Odysseus-like, as he reads from the Odyssey.

 

Classics Day tributes to Ms. Toni Methe

On April 6, 2017, the Holy Cross Classics Department and the student society Eta Sigma Phi hosted our 45th annual Classics Day, with hundreds of high school students from around New England gathering for a day of Classically themed competitions and events. Click here for the Holy Cross news story on the day.

Toni at the tribute ceremony in the Hogan Ballroom

This year we honored Ms. Antoinette “Toni” Methe, the administrative assistant in Classics, on the occasion of her last Classics Day. Toni has worked at Holy Cross since 1974 and in the Classics Department since 1990. She has organized Classics Day for the last 27 years. Students signed posters for Toni and the Hogan Ballroom full of students resounded with cheers of “Gratias tibi, Toni!” We also read tributes to Toni from four alums of the Department. We print those tributes here:

Michael Russo ‘15

This is Michael Russo, graduate of the class of 2015, writing to you now as a middle school Latin teacher from Texas. I am saddened to know that the Fenwick 4 that I knew will never be the same. I cannot even imagine what the Department of Classics at Holy Cross will be like without you, Toni. You have been its administrative secretary of decades, its longstanding and true bedrock. Your consummate ability to marshal people and resources and to spearhead and organize the annual Classics Day on the campus for countless years has helped make The College of the Holy Cross a local, state and national giant in the promotion of the study and appreciation of the Classics. I will never forget your very friendly and hospitable personality or your constant commitment to the good and proper management of the department and the well-being of its majors (or your operatic voice or love for cats!) On behalf of all Holy Cross Classics majors, I wish you the best health and most happiness that anyone could ever have.

Deborah Sokolowski ‘14

Toni was one of the first people I ever met at Holy Cross, when she kindly helped me–a VERY lost freshman–find my first Latin classroom. I was fortunate enough to see her kindness almost every day in the department, and I especially enjoyed working with Toni to prepare for Classics Day — I say “with” because, even though Toni always had the event planned down to the last detail, she always took the time to explain schedules to us, which she had carefully planned out well in advance so that everything ran smoothly.  I especially had fun working the sign in table with her, as many returning teachers and students either knew her as Holy Cross alums, or had come to know her over the years as the “brains behind the whole operation.” Toni’s hard work not only during Classics Day, but daily in the department, made everyone feel welcome and excited to be a part of the Classics community!

Lee Fratantuono ‘95

Toni Methe for years now has been the heart and soul of Holy Cross Classics.  Who can forget her wisdom, humor, kindness and generous help?  She guided so many student workers, majors, and friends of the Classics Department through so much.  She was a master of organizing the many and varied activities of the department, not least with her meticulously crafted flyers and posters…a vintage collection of which I fondly keep in my own office desk. She served a special, extraordinary role as travel secretary to the late, much missed Ken Happe on his many world travels, helping to share news of his adventures with his friends and colleagues.  Toni will never be replaced and always be remembered.  Her legacy of service to Holy Cross Classics is well deserved and assured.

William Ziobro ’66 (Professor Emeritus in Classics)

For well over 30 years I had the pleasure to work with Toni on planning many events for the Holy Cross Classics Department – from that of the Bean Scholarship to different Lecture Series. There was no event, or program, however, that Toni made more “her own” than Classics Day. She took complete ownership of the Day, from its early planning every year, to organizing the participation of Holy Cross Classics majors, to all internal contact at the College, and all external contact with so many schools throughout New England. She was the prime reason why Classics Day has grown from about 100 hundred students to 400 or 500 students. In the background of every chariot race, every lunch reservation, every security arrangement – the list goes on and on – Toni was the driving force. Thank you, Toni, for making this day so memorable for all the guests whom you have so cordially welcomed to the Holy Cross campus. Yours has been a job exceptionally well done. Congratulations!

Eric Adler speaks on the place of the Classics in American higher education

On Thursday, October 20, Eric Adler, Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Maryland, delivered at talk at Holy Cross titled “The Transformation of Humanism and the Fate of Classical Studies in America.” The talk was followed by a lively question and answer session, and a group of Classics majors and faculty continued the discussion with Prof. Adler over dinner.

The talk and dinner were sponsored by the McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics, and Culture. The McFarland Center has posted a video of the talk and the Q and A that followed here. And here is the video from YouTube:

Thomas Köntges presents on Petronian puzzles and possibilities

Thomas Köntges of Leipzig University in Germany visited Holy Cross on September 29 and 30 to speak with students from Prof. Neel Smith’s “Digital Reading and Writing” course and Prof. Tim Joseph’s “Literature in the Age of Nero” course, as well as members of the Manuscripts, Inscriptions, and Documents Club.

In his talk titled “Quid novi: a story of five centuries of Petronius research and me,” Prof. Köntges shared his work on the manuscript tradition of Petronius’ fragmentary first-century CE prosimetric novel Satyrica. He emphasized the new possibilities for research that result from recent access to digital photographs of early manuscripts.

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Students take in the discussion of the elaborate manuscript tradition of the Satyrica. Photo by Prof. Ellen Perry.

 

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Prof. Köntges and Prof. Smith at the outset of the talk. Photo by Prof. Ellen Perry.

 

Prof. Martin in the land of the Helvetii

Earlier this month Prof. Tom Martin was an invited participant in an international workshop on “Josephus Latinus” held at the University of Bern, Switzerland. He and his co-author Prof. David Levenson of the Dept. of Religion at Florida State University made a presentation on their research on Latin manuscripts of the ancient translations of the original Greek works of Flavius Josephus from the first century CE. Their research concentrates on Josephus’ work The Jewish War, an eyewitness account of the famous story of the rebellion in Judaea against Roman control that led to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Students at Holy Cross and FSU made significant contributions to this scholarship through their work in a joint undergraduate/graduate seminar taught in the fall of 2014 simultaneously at both institutions using video conferencing.

In the photo, Prof. Martin is shown in Bern by the light of the full moon illuminating the House of Parliament of Switzerland, known by its Latin title visible just below the pediment of the building as CURIA CONFOEDERATIONIS HELVETICAE. Calling the Swiss people Helvetii goes back to Julius Caesar’s Gallic War, while curia was the Romans’ designation for their Senate House.

Wide-ranging lineup of Classics presentations at 2016 Academic Conference

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Michael Shun ’18, Nick Guarracino ’18, Allyn Waller ’18, and Julia Spiegel ’19.

This year’s academic conference launched on Wednesday, April 27, when senior Classics and Catholic Studies major Joseph MacNeill gave his Fenwick Scholar presentation, titled  “Encountering God as Logos: A Postmodern Theology.” Click here for more on Joe’s presentation and here to read about the reading group that Joe formed in the fall.

On Thursday Maggie MacMullin ’16, a Classics major with a minor in Visual Arts, spoke about “Meaning and Making in the Holy Cross Art Department.” Three other seniors presented on their thesis research: Steven Merola ’16 presented “Apologetic Epinoiai: Christ as Light and Wisdom in Origen’s Contra Celsum“; Christopher Ryan ’16 spoke about “A Contemporary Understanding of Free Will in Augustinian Death”; and William Callif ’16, a double-major in Classics and Political Science, addressed “Montesquieu and the Republic.”

Friday afternoon’s events included four presentations by groups in the Manuscripts, Inscriptions, and Documents Club. Nicholas Guarracino ’18, Michael Shun ’18, Julia Spiegel ’19, and Allyn Waller ’18 addressed their study of Gregorian chant in the presentation “Neumes: Notation and Abbreviation in Tenth-Century Chant Manuscripts.” For more on this group’s ongoing work, click here.

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Liam Prendergast ’19, Kevin Cogan ’19 & Zach Sowerby ’19

Three presentations covered work on the Homer Multitext project: “Observations on Scholia to Iliad 17 in the Venetus A manuscript” by Michael Kelley ’18, Corey Scannell ’18, and Melody Wauke ’17; “Validation and Verification in the Homer Multitext Project” by Chris Ryan ’16 and Alex Simrell ’16; and “Mysteries in the Escorial Omega 1.12 manuscript of the Iliad” by Kevin Cogan ’19, Liam Prendergast ’19, and Zachary Sowerby ’19. Claude Hanley ’18 and Charlie Schufreider ’17 spoke about the Kanones system, which they have assisted Prof. Neel Smith in developing, in a presentation titled “Developing a Corpus-Specific Ancient Greek Parser.”

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Nick Jalbert ’16

Friday’s events concluded with a reading – to a packed room – by Nicholas Jalbert ’16, from his novel manuscript In Sacred Flame. The reading was followed by a lively discussion of the ancient and modern influences on Nick’s characters and themes.