In memoriam: Charles L. Babcock (1924-2012)

Charles Luther Babcock died December 7, 2012 at the age of 88. He was born in Whittier California, May 26, 1924. After attending Whittier Union High School, he enrolled in the University of California—Berkeley in 1941, where he became a member of ROTC. In 1943 he entered the US Army and served in General Patton’s Third Army in the invasion of Germany in 1945. There, as Second Lieutenant, he earned the Bronze Medal for leading his platoon through heavy fire at Neumarkt, assisting the wounded, personally liberating nine POWs and capturing the local civilian leader of the resistance. After the war as Captain he became aide-de-camp to Maj. Gen. John Coulter, who went on to become Deputy Commander of the Fourth Army.

In 1947 Capt. Babcock resumed his studies at Berkeley, where he earned a BA (Phi Beta Kappa) in Latin in 1948 and a PhD in Classics in 1953, with a dissertation on The Dating of the Capitoline Fasti and the Erasure of the Antonii Names, written under Arthur E. Gordon. So began Charles Babcock’s lifelong interest in Latin Epigraphy and the history of the Roman Empire. He continued his pursuit of Roman history and epigraphy at the American Academy in Rome as a Fulbright Scholar and Academy Fellow (1953-55). While sailing to Rome with other Americans heading for the Academy, he met Mary A. Taylor, a graduate student from Bryn Mawr. They were married in 1955 and raised three children.

After two years as Instructor at Cornell University (1955-57), Charles became Assistant Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where he remained for nine years (1957-66), being promoted to Associate Professor in 1962. At Penn he discovered his talent for administration, serving in due course as Assistant Dean, Vice-Dean, and Acting Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

He came to The Ohio State University as Professor of Classics and Chair of the department in 1966. In 1968 when the arts and sciences were reorganized into five separate colleges, Charles became the first Dean of the College of Humanities. After one term as dean he returned to teaching, specializing in Latin Epigraphy and literature, especially Horace and Tacitus, while Horace and Augustan Rome became the focus of his papers and publications.

From 1980-88 he served as Chair of the Department of Classics. In 1986 he and his colleague, Stephen Tracy, established a research center for the study of Greek and Latin inscriptions. Subsequently expanded to include paleography, the Center for Epigraphical and Palaeographical Studies, is now the only comprehensive research facility for the study of Greek and Latin inscriptions and manuscripts in the United States.  

At Ohio State Charles  won numerous awards:  the Alfred J. Wright Award "for significant service to organized student activities and for the development of effective student leadership" (1968); The Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award (1982), the first Exemplary Faculty Award in the College of Humanities (1989); and the Distinguished Service Award (1996).          

Charles was also active in many national and regional classical associations. He was Director of the American Philological Association (1968-72); Executive Committee Member (1970-74), President-Elect (1976-77) and President (1977-78) of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South; and Trustee (1967-70), which  awarded him the OVATIO Award of Merit in 1982. He also served as Vice-President (1971-72) and President (1972-73) of the Vergilian Society.

Ever since his original residency at American Academy in Rome Charles maintained a lively interest in that institution. In 1966 he was Professor-in-Charge of the Summer School. In 1986 he was a resident in Classical Studies, and in 1988-89 became Acting Mellon Professor-in-Charge. He also participated in the administration of the Academy. He served as Trustee (1981-83), chaired the Friends of the Library (1985-86), and, after serving as Mellon Professor, chaired the Advisory Council to the School of Classical Studies (1992-94).

Charles was equally involved with the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome, familiarly known as the “Centro.”  The Centro was established in 1965 at the instigation of Brooks Otis to provide a study-abroad experience for undergraduates. Charles, with an interest in the project from its inception, became Professor-in-Charge in 1974-75 and then served as Chair of the Managing Committee for the next seven years (1975-82). He continued to recruit students for both the Centro and the American Academy throughout his career and long into retirement.

After retirement in 1992 Charles continued to serve the Ohio State University in various capacities.  The Thompson Memorial Library held a special place in his heart. During the critical time of raising money for its renovation, he co-chaired Campus Campaign, the annual fundraising effort of the university, for two years (2001-02), and then served as President of the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Library. He saw his efforts on behalf of the library rewarded with the completion of the $120 million renovation in 2009.


For information on the memorial service, go to http://classics.osu.edu/events/memorial-service-emeritus-professor-charles-luther-babcock.

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