ALUMNI/AE and news
Don Squires, BA '75. I retired in the fall of 2011, after a nearly 30 year career as a CPA specializing in corporate taxation, and now find myself in the happy position of being able to spend much more time on my avocation, ancient numismatics. Among the projects I have been involved in was assisting Richard Grossman (Yale ‘01), formerly a curator at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, in researching some of the Greek coins selected for the museum’s new gallery dedicated to showcasing its five hundred best ancient coins. I have also become friends with Bill Metcalf, who was kind enough to wrangle me an invitation last December to gala reopening of the Yale Art Gallery. (The new gallery is magnificent and by itself justifies a trip to New Haven.) Finally while in New Haven in December I was able to see one of my favorite Yale profs, Victor Bers. It was very gracious of Victor to see me and I especially enjoyed our discussion of how technology has revolutionized the study of Classics in ways that I for one wouldn’t have imagined possible back in the mid 1970s. Would that I could be a student again.
James Allen Evans, PhD ’57, writes: “I have taken my book on the Persian Wars off the back burner and hope to start writing again this fall and winter. I am also the secretary of the Mayne Island (British Columbia, Canada) Lions Club and have been for the last 4 years. It is a very active group.” You can read more here.
Adam Blistein, PhD '80. I suspect that the majority of people who get as far as reading this biography will know that that the Society for Classical Studies (SCS), founded in 1869 as the American Philological Association (APA), is the primary learned society in North America for people who study classical antiquity. Though I can’t remember who first told me about the APA (as it then was), that person must have been one of the Classical Studies faculty at Yale in the 1970’s because the successful career path for a Yale Classical Studies graduate student ran (as it still does to a great extent) straight through the APA Placement Service and Annual Meeting. In my case APA (now SCS) turned out to be the final destination instead of (more precisely, in addition to) a way station, but there were some interesting and instructive stops along the way. I won’t say much about my two-year stint as the token male faculty secretary at the Harvard Business School (while still allegedly working on my Ph.D. thesis) or my two years at the Institute for Human Issues (ISHI), an organization (now defunct) that fostered interdisciplinary research in the social sciences, except to note that armed with nothing but degrees in classics from Yale and Haverford College, I was able to deal with concepts from statistics and international finance in the former and to learn enough about the anthropology of food in Southeast Asia and the sociology of drug addiction in Europe to write successful grant proposals for the latter. At ISHI I also mastered double-entry bookkeeping, a skill that has served the SCS well over the years. In April 1983, three years after I received my Ph.D. from Yale, I visited the offices of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the learned society for people who do cancer research, for what I thought would be a job interview. In fact, I was led to a conference room and asked to complete a series of exercises. Among these exercises were a spelling and a grammar test, and I have to confess that for a few seconds I contemplated walking out. “Doesn’t a Yale Ph.D., in Classics no less, get you a pass on this sort of thing?” I asked myself. However, in the mere 3 years I had spent in the “real world”, I had already encountered people pretending to degrees they didn’t have; so, I took an “I’ll show ’em” attitude and completed the exercises. In fact, I did show ’em. I recently learned that it is still the case that I am the only person since the tests were instituted in the 1970’s to get a perfect score on both of them, although I’ll bet that most Yale Classics Ph.D.’s (and B.A.’s for that matter) would do just as well. The reason for the tests (and for the fact that I was ultimately hired) was the person who devised them: Margaret (Marge) Foti, then Executive Director and now Chief Executive Officer of AACR. Just a few years earlier AACR had made the decision that APA made in the late 1990’s: to move from being managed by a member Secretary-Treasurer in his spare time (as with APA, it had always been a “he”) to a full-time executive officer. Fortunately for me, AACR did not turn to a scientist to fill this position but rather to a scientific editor. I say “fortunately” because the viewpoint of the scientific publishing professional is not all that different from that of a Classicist: careful attention to detail and great efforts to make sure that the text is absolutely correct. Once I showed that my skills were the skills she valued, Marge was willing to overlook the apparent disconnect between classics and cancer research and give me a chance to undergo on-the-job training in areas such as member service, meeting planning, support of volunteer leaders, government relations, and fund raising, all tasks I take on regularly at SCS. In fact, for most of my time at the AACR, there were only 3 units: administration, publications, and finance. Of those units only finance was not headed by a Classicist. I was in charge of administration, and my opposite number in publications had received her B.A. from NYU in Classics in the late ’70’s. The only time (at least so far) I ever presented a paper at the SCS meeting (as opposed to some reports as Executive Director) was in a session on non-academic career opportunities for Ph.D.’s organized by the Placement Committee in 2010. The title of that talk was “The Practicality of Philology in the Information Age: Or Why Being a Classicist Means Never Having to Say You Can’t”. I hope Erich Segal’s shade forgives me for appropriating the famous tag line of his famous novel in support of training in classics, but I am convinced that my title is correct. At the most basic level we emerge from our training with the ability to read and write, and these skills are phenomenally useful in an information age and can be turned to good use in almost any field, even ones with no apparent connection to classical antiquity. In short, the classics I studied at Yale (and at Haverford/Bryn Mawr and at Providence Classical High School) made me someone that a scientific society was willing to employ, and that society then gave me skills and experience that I could bring back to classics as Executive Director of the SCS, something I’ve done since 1999 and intend to do until I retire in June 2016.
Pramit Chaudhuri, PhD (Classics and Comparative Literature) 2008. When I applied to graduate school from Oxford in 2001 I didn’t really know what Comparative Literature was, but the fact that Yale was the only place to offer a combined degree with Classics stood out. As an undergraduate I had enjoyed Classics, literature, and comparing things — which made for a rather rudimentary personal statement but one that was thankfully not entirely discouraging to the admissions committee. Joining the program was the best academic decision I’ve made, but I’ve also had a lot of luck along the way: Yale Classics has gone from strength to strength, the student culture was disarmingly collaborative and fun (in contrast to others’ reports of their experience of graduate school...), and I got a job at Dartmouth College in my final year (partly thanks to my background in CompLit). My work since then has continued to encompass comparative material, including Italian epic and English tragedy, but my attention has focused mainly on Latin literature of the early empire, culminating in a recent book on human-divine conflict, The War with God: Theomachy in Roman Imperial Poetry (Oxford University Press, 2014). My book shows how so-called “Silver Latin” poetry makes a particularly important contribution to the literary tradition — a new way of thinking about the relations between humans and gods that would come to influence the classical tradition from Dante and Marlowe down to Philip Pullman and even Richard Dawkins. I’m working on several different projects at the moment, including a book about diplomacy in Latin literature and a set of computational tools to aid in the identification and analysis of intertextuality. I’m also co-founder and co-president (along with Ariane Schwartz) of the new Society for Early Modern Classical Reception (SEMCR), an affiliate organisation of the Society for Classical Studies — watch out for info coming soon. I recently got tenure, but can’t say I’ve internalised it just yet. More important than all the above, however, is the fact that Phelps Hall is where I met my wife, Ayelet Haimson Lushkov (now a professor of Classics at UT Austin).
W. Royal Stokes, PhD '65. I have many fond memories of the two years (1960–62) it took to satisfy my course requirements and commence on my dissertation. I was among about a dozen new candidates for the doctorate and we were a congenial bunch who spent our days, and some evenings, in Phelps Hall studying for our courses with Bernard Knox, C. Bradford Welles, Ann Perkins, Ralph Ward, Alfred Bellinger, and other eminent classicists. One amusing recollection is of a bogus classical journal series that many of us contributed to. We titled it Hysteria and frequently added pages to its large loose-leaf binder. It contained our attempts — in all good humor and with due respect — to satirize and parody the field of study that we all dearly loved. I wonder if that binder is still there on a shelf in the Phelps Hall Classics Library. A 1965 Yale Classics Ph.D, I taught Greek and Latin languages and literature and ancient history for the decade of the 1960s at the Universities of Pittsburgh and Colorado, Tufts University, and Brock University (Ontario) before departing the academic life in 1969 and becoming an author, editor, journalist, and broadcaster in the field of jazz and popular music, which I had been closely observing since the early 1940s. I was editor of Jazz Notes (the quarterly journal of the Jazz Journalists Association) from 1992 to 2001, the Washington Post's jazz critic for a decade beginning in the late 1970s, editor of JazzTimes for several years in the 1980s, and hosted my weekly shows “I thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say ....” and Since Minton’s on public radio in the 1970s and ’80s. I am the author of The Jazz Scene: An Informal History from New Orleans to 1990 (Oxford University Press, 1991), Swing Era New York: The Jazz Photographs of Charles Peterson (Temple University Press, 1994), Living the Jazz Life: Conversations with Forty Musicians about Their Careers in Jazz (Oxford, 2000), and Growing Up With Jazz: Twenty-Four Musicians Talk About Their Lives and Careers (Oxford 2005). My trilogy of novels Backwards Over will see publication in 2013 and I am currently at work on a memoir and A W. Royal Stokes Jazz, Blues & Beyond Reader. A full account of why I changed career paths in mid-life can be found here.
Anke (Rondholz) Tietz, PhD 2011, has recently founded a travel outfit, the Via Antiqua Travel GmbH. She writes: “Francesca Spiegel is my partner in crime. We organize educational trips in Europe with a focus on history, archeology and history of art. Our programs not only feature out-of-the-ordinary sites but also shed new light on top destinations every traveler must see. Each trip is dedicated to one aspect of historic importance to the region visited: we provide a red thread, if you will, to draw the line connecting past to present. This makes our trips a real in-depth experience, because ‘the more you know, the more you see’. The travelers are accompanied by a trip manager to provide for their well-being and comfort, and by an expert with a PhD in a related field to give after-dinner talks, introduce the theme, and present the sites in cooperation with local guides. From 2015 on, our trips will be sold through the travel programs run by various Alumni Associations, such as Yale Educational Travel. Before we officially start, I’m offering two trips for 2014 as some sort of test run: ‘A Game of Thrones. Balancing the Powers in Post-Medieval Baden-Württemberg’, an 11 days trip in Southwest Germany; and ‘Rome’s Etruscan Heritage’, 11 days in and around Rome. Now I’m looking for travelers to go on at least one of the trips for a really special price, and, in return, to share their opinion and help me improve the programs! Here is the website: www.via-antiqua.com