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


Annus mirabilis. This well-known phrase is the name of a poem by John Dryden that celebrated the London “year of miracles,” AD 1666, but whose latter part focused on the Great Fire of London, when for over five September days central London was consumed by flames. Such a year it has been for Duke Classical Studies.

Clockwise from top left, new faculty Cassandra Casias, Lauren Ginsberg, Kate Morgan and Erika Weiberg
New Hires

We hired four new colleagues to start Fall 2020. Yes, four. In the event, they are all women, and all wide-ranging and brilliant in amazing and different ways. For the first time in its history our department is majority female, and we have added capacities in a host of realms, including Greek drama, Roman drama, Greek and Near Eastern archaeology, ancient medicine, imperial literature, late ancient history, Roman law, comparative slavery, trauma studies et cetera καὶ τὰ λοιπά.


The day after we signed the last of our new four, Vincent Price announced the shutting down of the campus. That was lucky for us, as regards the hires, but, my oh my, what a strange Spring. We carried on, and so far as I can tell, with aplomb. I enjoyed seeing my Greek students in our first Zoom meeting go from deep frowns and unhappy faces (particularly my student in New York City, at the epicenter in that time) to normal happy smiles. Over time, we found a lot of comfort and, yes, joy in our Zoom community. We introduced our pets to one another. We organized a virtual cookie session, where everyone got their own favorite cookie — since we brought our own. To borrow from Hannah Arendt, we found some of our deepest humanity by being and working together in dark times.

Gregson Davis
Mary T. Boatwright

Because of the pandemic, a community pleasure we did not have was to say a proper, in-person goodbye in the context of that other main event of this year, the retirement of two extraordinary, awe-inspiring teachers and researchers, Professors Mary T. (“Tolly”) Boatwright and Gregson Davis. The departure of this illustrious duo as well as the influx of our Fab Four mark the sea-change that is our new department. This is a bittersweet joy we face as we enter the future — Tolly and Gregson have been critical to what has defined Duke Classics for years. Some of our other distinguished emeriti have conspired to put together lovely feature articles about both.    

Read Boatwright Tribute Read Davis Tribute
The Year Ahead

This past Thursday and Friday, I worked for much of the day in my office in Allen Building, for the first time since early March. I was there in a new capacity. In June, I was appointed Dean of Humanities, and Thursday night I was there in a Zoom meeting to help orient the first-year parents. The next year-in-review will therefore be from the pen of my able successor as Chair, Jed Atkins.

I will not pretend that West Campus feels entirely normal. But as I walked to my parking lot at day’s end on Friday, strolling along the buildings of the Gothic Wonderland under sweltering blue skies, there was a small band of first-year students playing frisbee on the West Campus lawn and hanging out in socially-distanced fashion, masks on, as the Duke Chapel bell tower chimed its 5:00 melodies. There will continue to be bumps along our newly-imposed path forward, but we will get through it, and in the end all will be fine, or at the very worst we will discover yet more of that depth of humanity that marks our community behavior in challenging times.

Finally, I remind everyone that the matters that keep us up at night during this worldwide crisis are mostly Humanities questions: where to draw the line between personal freedom and community responsibility? how to balance national versus global interests? how to assess the dysfunction of our democracy? In what way to respond to deep questions of social and economic justice? where best to locate race and ethnicity in social compacts and discourse? how to value the sometimes contrasting rights of elders and children? There has never been a more urgent time to engage vigorously with the many questions that often begin with or find dramatic illumination in the study of the ancient world.

Congratulations Class of 2020!

graduate banner

We celebrate all of our recent Ph.D.s, Majors & Minors for all of their achievements.

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We also congratulate our students who received awards this year:

  • Sean Kassim Fern Rafique – Classical Association of the Middle West and South Award for Outstanding Accomplishment in Classical Studies
  • Gretchen Elise Wright and Katherine Brookshire Owensby – David Taggart Clark Prize in Classical Studies
  • Saumya Sao – Outreach Prize
  • Azim Dharani – American Chemical Society Undergraduate Award in Inorganic Chemistry
  • Cordelia Hogan – Clay Taliaferro Dance Award & Dance Writing Award
  • Katherine Brookshire Owensby – The Distinguished Thesis Award in Linguistics
  • Bradley Robert Foster – Pratt School of Engineering: Howard G. Clark Award for Excellence in Research & Theo C. Pilkington Memorial Award

Alumni, Faculty & Graduate Student Updates

What's new with your former classmates? Wondering what activities or projects our faculty members and graduate students have been involved in? You can learn all this and more in our annual round-up of Year-In Updates. Simply click on the appropriate button below to visit our website to read (and see) the latest!

Read Alumni News Read Faculty Reflections Read Grad Student News

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

If you are interested in learning more about how you can support the department, please contact Chris Clarke at