Since joining the SCS in 1959, Michael C. J. Putnam has served on the Board of Directors three times, the Finance Committee twice, as ACLS Delegate from 1983 to 1987, and on several other committees as well. He served the Association effectively in all of these roles, but especially so on three separate occasions when he took important leadership roles at times when the Association was embarking on major projects. As President in the early 1980s, he helped the Association to complete its first capital campaign and develop its current divisional structure. This effort set up the framework of committees that still carries out most of the Association’s business. As Financial Trustee from 1998 to 2004 he made sure that we remained financially sound during a period when we were establishing a professional office, dealing with the dissolution of Scholars Press, taking over responsibility for the American Office of L’Année philologique, and completing the Barrington Atlas project. And, of course, he has been Co-Chair of the Gateway Campaign Committee since its inception in 2005.
As Campaign Co-Chair, Professor Putnam recruited donors and Campaign volunteers with equal success. He was the trusted face of the Campaign to both members and nonmembers, inspiring many to make generous contributions. He served as a genial host at the Campaign’s four special events (featuring Garry Wills, the Aquila Theatre Company, the Boston poets, and Daniel Mendelsohn). He managed the work of the Campaign Committee with a persistent humor and grace that never let its members lose sight of the urgency of the task at hand. He oversaw the production of every major written appeal, Campaign publication, and grant application and personally solicited more than half a million dollars in gifts, i.e., over 20% of the total amount raised. In short, Professor Putnam was at the center of every Campaign activity and deserves much of the credit for its successful conclusion.
Professor Putnam has written a dozen books and scores of scholarly articles on Virgil, Horace, Catullus, and other Latin poets. Virgil’s Pastoral Art won our Goodwin Prize for 1971. His recent work includes commentaries and translations of the Latin poetry of the Renaissance scholars Maffeo Vegio and Jacopo Sannazzarro and, with the medievalist Jan Ziolkowski, a 1128-page compendium, The Virgilian Tradition: The First Fifteen Hundred Years. This selection of texts (some of them translated for the first time) is immensely useful to humanists well beyond the field of Classics and received the Alexander G. McKay Prize from the Vergilian Society of America. In the 1990s Professor Putnam was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. In 2010 he was elected a Life Trustee of the American Academy in Rome, only the second person ever to receive this honor. Even Classicists who know him well may be surprised to learn that from 1967 to 1987 he was Sole Trustee of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, and is currently a member of its Board of Advisors.
During the Campaign, Professor Putnam retired from his position as W. Duncan MacMillan II Professor of Classics at Brown University after nearly 50 years of teaching at the University. Many of his grateful students have gone on to academic careers in the Classics and other areas of the humanities and to nonacademic careers, where they continue to support the subjects and organizations to which Professor Putnam introduced them. We in the SCS are extremely fortunate that one of the outstanding scholars and teachers of the humanities during the last 50 years has brought his wisdom, integrity, and passion to all aspects of our work, especially the Gateway Campaign.