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Opening the Gates: The American Philological Association/Society for Classical Studies 1970-2019

Ward Briggs

University of South Carolina

This talk will be an abbreviated version of a longer history of the APA/SCS that will appear in TAPA.

This paper will argue that the American Philological Association/Society for Classical Studies [hereafter “the Society”] has changed more in the last fifty years than in the first half-century chronicled by Frank Gardner Moore and more than the second half-century detailed in George Kennedy’s history. The motto of our highly successful capital campaign, “From Gatekeeper to Gateway” might well serve as a summary of the major developments in the Society upon which this will focus.

The Society has redefined its sense of service to the field of classics as evidenced by the change of name from the narrow American Philological Association to the more inclusive Society for Classical Studies. As the demographics of America changed, the Society began funding grants to minority students interested in the classics. As high-school enrollments in Latin classes began to wane, the Society sponsored foreign travel for teachers. The Society has increased inclusion of programs for teachers at the meetings and has elected or appointed at least one secondary teacher to each iteration of the Education Committee.

Candidates for positions at the college level no longer faced the “old-boy telephone-call system” of previous years. The introduction of the Placement Service openly and fairly announced all available jobs in classics, giving equal access for all to apply for jobs. The Service facilitated interviews and monitored the entire process.

Into the 1970s the nominating committee simply offered one candidate for each office. By the 1980s the committee proposed at least two candidates for each position. Contested elections have resulted in officers who represent a greater diversity in gender, geography, and institutions. To take one area: in the first 50 years of the Society’s existence, there was one woman president, Abby Leach of Vassar, in 1900. In the next fifty years there were six. Since 1970 there have been 16. In the 21st century, 10 of our presidents have been male, 10 female.

Concomitantly the creation and rise of the Women’s Classical Caucus has brought about transparency in the reporting of gender disparity in the publication of articles, in jobs offered to candidates, and in Association/Society offices held. Members of the WCC were also instrumental in founding the Division of Outreach. 

The Society had always taken a role in publishing scholarly monographs and school readers, but in this period the Society assumed responsibility for projects who audience was far beyond simply its membership: L’Année philologique, the Barrington Atlas project, and a new journal for outreach, Amphora.

Finally, in 1970 fundraising on behalf of the Society was virtually unknown. In the 21st century it has become essential. The Capital Campaign exceeded its multimillion-dollar goal and imbued the membership with the tradition of giving that finds each year donations from 15% or more of the members. 

Sweeping changes have taken place and new responsibilities have been assumed, but the Society has prepared itself for the challenges of the next fifty years of its existence.  

Session/Panel Title

From APA to SCS: 150 Years of Professional Classics in North America

Session/Paper Number


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