Year in Review

At the end of each school year, our faculty and graduate students look back to reflect on highlights — professional and personal — that occurred. We also invite our alumni to share with us and their classmates any news happening in their lives and careers. We compile this information in the following e-newsletter and associated web pages. If you would like to be on our email distribution list, please contact Matthew Meyer.


Message from Chair William Johnson


With this issue the venerable Classical Studies Newsletter Phêmê takes on a new, digital-era look. Follow the links below to explore the news about your old department and its virtual family, or, better, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (we promise posts that are low in traffic and valuable in content), and/or check out our News and Events section, all magnificently curated by Matthew Meyer.

students in costumes

On our web pages you will, for example, find the source of the striking image on the right. That was an extremely illuminating (and fun!) field trip taken by the students of Claire Catenaccio's Greek tragedy seminar to Paperhand Puppet Intervention (Saxapahaw, N.C.) to investigate the techniques of masked performance. Look through our our site for additional photos and see if you can guess which of the solo performers pictured is me, and which is my estimable colleague Peter Burian.

Faculty and students alike have had a very busy, and really quite wonderful and inspiring year, including one of our faculty (Tolly!) being elected president of our national learned society, and a Classical Languages major (Gabi!) becoming Duke’s next Rhodes Scholar. Read on to see what I mean!

Alumni and Friends

Toby Ubu
Toby Ubu

Our BAs mostly choose to send their updates to the University alumni site, but even the few who post with us show what a talented bunch they are — and we are keenly aware and proud of the many accomplishments of our Classics undergraduates, from medical and law careers to diplomatic posts. Keep in touch, folks, as so many of you continue to do!

Zach Heater
Zach Heater

We want here to give shout-outs to two recent BAs. Toby Ubu (Clas. Civ. ’12) as he finished his M.D. at UVa was awarded the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award, given to the student who best demonstrates both clinical excellence and outstanding compassion and respect in the delivery of care. Zach Heater (Clas. Lang. ’17) meanwhile just couldn’t put down his senior thesis on Plato’s Republic, and has now revised and published the meat of the thesis in two online Classics journals. Congratulations to both!

More of our PhDs post to our Alumni News, and this year we get illuminating updates from many. They all are thriving, so it’s hard to choose highlights, but we can’t let Charlie Muntz’s tenure promotion pass without hearty congratulations.

Read more Alumni News


In a different register, we note here with sadness the death of colleague Andrea Purvis (PhD ’98), who not only took her degree here but continued her connection to the department for many years through her late husband of 14 years, Diskin Clay.


Faculty and Staff Highlights


The national learned society for classicists, the Society for Classical Studies (formerly the American Philological Association), voted in Professor Mary Taliaferro (“Tolly”) Boatwright as President-elect of the association, their highest honor. She will take the gavel in January 2019. She also joined 15 distinguished classical scholars for the Biggs Family Residency Reunion, a celebration of the annual week-long Residency in Classics at Washington University that began in 1990.


Assistant —and now Associate— Professor Jed W. Atkins was granted tenure even as he saw his next two book projects see light of day, both published by Cambridge University Press: a monograph, Roman Political Thought and a co-edited volume, the Cambridge Companion to Cicero’s Philosophy.


Business Manager Jill Wuenschel was selected for the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences Pillar of Excellence Award, the top staff honor within the college.


Last Fall, Professor Maurizio Forte was part of a team thatcreated new permanent exhibits, relying on 3D technology, for the Museum of the Imperial Fora in Rome, and this Spring was awarded a three-year, 50,000 € grant from Fondazione Rovati of Milan in support of his project at the Etruscan site of Vulci.


Research Professor N. Gregson Davis gave the annual Clack lecture at the CAAS meeting in New York City, and published his translation of Aimé Césaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal / Journal of a Homecoming with Duke University Press.


Emeriti make it into the highlights too: Francis Newton (pictured left) has had two former students establish an endowed scholarship in his honor at the Centro (Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies) in Rome; and students and friends of the late Larry Richardson will want to know that his unique library collection now has its own proper space in Page Hall, overlooking Duke Chapel.

Professor and Department Chair William A. Johnson published a massive co-edited volume, the Oxford Handbook of the Second Sophistic.

Three Classical Studies teachers (faculty Alicia Jiménez and Rex Crews, and graduate instructor Thomas Cole) received decanal commendations for evaluations ranked among the top 5% of all undergraduate instructors in Trinity College (in the categories Quality of Course, Quality of Instruction, and Intellectual Stimulation).

Read the Annual Roundup of Faculty News & Reflections

Undergraduate Activities and Recognition


Gabi Stewart (Classical Languages ’18) is Duke’s next Rhodes scholar. She will be studying Greek literature and ancient social history during her time at Oxford, starting this Fall. Gabi was also awarded highest honors upon completing her senior thesis on Rostovtzeff and the Yale Diaspora: How Personalities and Communities Influenced the Development of North American Papyrology.


Saumya Sao, with the help of several members of the Classics Collegium, along with graduate students and faculty, brought the Junior Classical League Certamen event to Duke for the first time, which attracted high school Latin students from states near and far— 27 teams and 132 students competed in these contests about their knowledge of the Latin language and of classical mythology and history.

Students in NYC

Four Classics majors or minors in Claire Catenaccio’s classes (Mikaela Inessa Chandra, Sean Rafique, Travis Long, Gabi Stewart) took advantage of a Trinity Enhancement award to travel to New York to see a performance of Aristophanes’ Frogs in the original Greek.


Students recreated ancient technologies for Kyle Jazwa’s Ancient Science and Technology course, including a Roman watermill, Archimedes screw, functioning ballista, hand-spun yarn, and ancient paper (papyrus).

Research travel awards making strategic use of the new(ish) Quigley Fund went to classical languages major Katherine Owensby, to support her work at the Roman site of Cifali Favarotta, in Sicily, working with a University of Chicago team; and to Helen Healey, to support her work with Maurizio Forte at the Duke Etruscan excavations at Vulci (Viterbo, Italy). See reports from last summer’s researchers.

Graduate Activities and Recognition


Our newest PhD is John Aldrup-MacDonald (pictured right), whose new baby joined us for the festivities to celebrate his completed dissertation, entitled Athenian Democracy on Paper.


John collaborated with first-year grad Sinja Küppers (pictured left) to organize the first Duke-UNC First-Gen Graduate Student Symposium, an interdisciplinary discussion of how the increasing presence of first generation students in advanced degree programs is changing higher education.  


Three Duke grad students — John Aldrup-MacDonald, Laura Camp, Courtney Monahan (Courtney pictured right) — presented their research in papers at national learned conventions.


Under the leadership of Laura Camp (pictured left), Duke students teamed up with UNC to host a graduate student colloquium focusing on ugliness, indecency, and scandal in the ancient world.

Adrian Linden-High won a Graduate Student Enhancement Grant to attend the Digital Humanities Summer Institute this summer to build further the skills he needs to map in ultra-high resolution the inscriptions-filled polygonal wall at Delphi.

Read more Graduate Student News


Class of 2018

Congratulations! to the Class of 2018, with majors in Classical Civilization and Classical Languages and minors in Classical Civilization and Latin, as well as a freshly minted PhD.

See the Commencement Program for more details

Gratias agimus

We are immensely grateful to friends and supporters who designate their Duke gifts to help the Department. Even as they help us accomplish our goals of furthering the love and understanding of Classical Studies, they remind us that our department continues to have an impact on those we have taught and met. We use these individual gifts primarily to support student research and course enhancement.

We also want to recognize the several endowments that are vital to the health of the department. Some were set up long ago, while others are fresh contributions, but all are vital to our mission:

  • The Warren Gates Endowment
  • The Anita Dresser Jurgens Endowment
  • The Francis Lanneau Newton Endowment
  • The Leonard and Lynn Quigley Fund
  • The Teasley Family Classical Antiquities Endowment
  • The Teasley-Carroll-Trope Family Faculty Support Endowment



And our needs? Our present, urgent need is to locate continuing and sustainable support for archaeological excavation. The Department now hosts two active excavations, one Roman, the other Etrusco-Roman, in Spain and in Italy. We have some support for student travel and activities abroad, but we have little support for the excavations themselves. Shovels and tents cost money! Not to mention the drones now used for landscape archaeology (think of the LiDAR technology that recently discovered thousands of new Mayan ruins). If you are interested in learning more about how you can support the department, please contact Chris Clarke at