In Memoriam: Jerry Clack

(Republished from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

In a career that lasted over 70 years, Jerry Clack wore many different hats.

From a youthful stint at the Swedish Legation in Washington and four years with UNESCO to public relations and accounting positions with AAA, Coca-Cola and the American Heart Association, he went on to assume directorship of Allegheny County’s chapter of The March of Dimes in 1953. His 15-year tenure with March of Dimes saw the development of two anti-polio vaccines, that of Jonas Salk at University of Pittsburgh and the oral vaccine of Albert Sabin.

Mr. Clack died Monday at Shadyside Hospital due to heart failure.

The son of Mildred Taylor Van Dyke of Pittsburgh and Christopher Thrower Clack of Boydton, Virginia, Mr. Clack was born in New York City on July 22, 1926. Because his father was a foreign representative of the Pittsburgh-based Blaw-Knox Company, he spent his early years in Europe, mostly in London and Dusseldorf. After his father’s death, he returned with his mother to Pittsburgh, attending the Fulton School and Peabody High School.

Upon gaining admission to Princeton University, where he received an undergraduate degree in Classics in 1946, he pursued graduate work at the University of Pittsburgh, earning a Ph.D. in Classics in 1962. In 1968, Mr. Clack was appointed Professor of Classic Languages at Duquesne University, chairing the Classics Department from 1973-75 and again from 1980-83. Referring to his Latin class at Duquesne, one student posted on ratemyprofessors.com: “Take him, he makes his classes short and funny.”

Mr. Clack’s sense of humor endeared him to his friends and family. “He was one of those people with a wicked sense of humor, sometimes a little black,” said Mark Mazur, a mathematics professor at Duquesne University and close friend of Mr. Clack’s. “He was very clever, plays on words and so forth. That was his trademark.”

Matthew Santirocco, former dean of New York University’s College of Arts and Sciences, wrote of Mr. Clack that he demonstrated “that classicists can still uphold standards of civility in scholarly discourse” and that “the luxury of scholarship and the joy of teaching carry with them the responsibility of serving the profession and the larger community.”

He also published widely in this field. In addition to scholarly articles, he produced four textbooks on the subject of Hellenistic poetry and epigrams. He won numerous awards for his scholarly research, but his first love was opera – first and foremost the operas of Wagner and Richard Strauss. He made annual visits to the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, Germany, called himself an opera fanatic and prided himself on a record collection that included at least one version of every opera available on CD, tape or DVD.

After his retirement from Duquesne in 2011, Mr. Clack pursued his lifelong interest in opera by becoming a board member of what is now Pittsburgh Festival Opera, this city’s smaller but highly active opera company. Eventually elected chairman of the board, Mr. Clack created and underwrote an annual Richard Strauss festival, that began with a revival of “Ariadne auf Naxos” in 2014. The Strauss Festival has produced local premieres of neglected or unfamiliar works by his favorite composer every year since.

“As chairman of the board meetings, he would open the meetings not with a tedious discussion of the budget or programming but by giving us a little lecture on some arcane portion of the operatic repertoire,” said Jonathan Eaton, artistic director of Pittsburgh Festival Opera. “Some might look at him and think of him as an eccentric, but he wasn’t. He was very passionate, and he wasn’t afraid of his passions.”

In 2017, Mr. Clack put up money for a matching grant that would fund a revival of Festival Opera’s mini-version of Wagner’s “Ring” Cycle, created for the company by British composer Jonathan Dove 10 years earlier. This revival began in 2018 with “Der Ring des Nibelungen” and will continue with one opera each summer and culminating with the entire four-opera cycle in 2021.

“He was an unusual man,” said Mildred Miller Posvar, 94, co-founder of Festival Opera and a former Metropolitan Opera star. “He was wonderful, with his dry wit and his lectures at the board meetings. It’s a great loss.”

Mr. Clack was also an ardent political activist for liberal causes that included among others, Citizens for Global Solution, and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the ACLU. He is survived by his husband, Julian Gil, who lives in Shadyside.

Mr. Clack wished that his epitaph be a farewell used by actors in Roman comedies:

Nunc, spectatores, valete et nobis clare plaudite. “Now, spectators, fare you well, and give us loud applause.”

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(Photo: "Candle" by Shawn Carpenter, licensed under CC BY 2.0)   

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The new Classics Everywhere initiative, launched by the SCS in 2019, supports projects that seek to engage communities all over the US and Canada with the worlds of Greek and Roman antiquity in new and meaningful ways. As part of this initiative the SCS has been funding a variety of projects ranging from children’s programs to teaching Latin in a prison. In this post we focus on four programs that use the performing arts for the exploration and appreciation of Greek and Latin literature.

Observing artists who work imaginatively and freely with the ancient material encourages students to think and act in non-linear ways. Cultivating one’s imagination is particularly important for Classicists, who are constantly seeking for new interpretations and new approaches to the ancient past. The projects below funded by the SCS’ Classics Everywhere Initiative invite their audiences to examine Greek and Roman literature through dance, theater, and staged readings; to explore known stories through different lenses; to stimulate their imagination; and to satisfy the human desire for creativity, entertainment, and learning.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 09/27/2019 - 6:12am by .

The Ancient Mediterranean for Modern Audiences: Reception, Pedagogy, Entertainment

March 6-7, 2020
Ohio Union, Columbus, Ohio

The aim of the OSU Classics Graduate Student Colloquium is to explore various directions in which the Ancient Mediterranean has been adapted and utilized by different cultures in Modern world from the Renaissance to the present day. In recent years, the online journal “Eidolon” and other public scholarship media have already successfully demonstrated how the cultures of the Ancient Mediterranean can be accessed, interpreted, and applied through various experiences by scholars, students, writers, and by the wider communities. We believe that the reception of Ancient Mediterranean cultures has become an important element of Classical scholarship and pedagogy. It is a critical point of contact between the academic community and the general audience.

The OSU Classics Graduate Student Colloquium invites papers on a range of topics that discuss and analyze the reception of the Ancient Mediterranean from a point of view of philology, linguistics, theater and performance studies, history, pedagogy, archaeology, art history, philosophy, anthropology, political studies, media studies, and/or gender studies. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 09/26/2019 - 12:34pm by Erik Shell.

Conference: Cathartic History

University of West Georgia, Carrollton, GA
February 25-27, 2021

The aim of this conference and the edited collection that will result is to propose Aristotelian catharsis as a new lens for historical inquiry. The project aims to do so, specifically, through the study of cathartic history as a phenomenon in the Greco-Roman Mediterranean and in the field of Classical history today. In the process, the project will serve as an example of the productive application of catharsis to the study of the past, and thus a model for other fields of historical research.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 09/26/2019 - 10:22am by Erik Shell.

SCS member and Classical Studies professor at the University of Pennsylvania Emily Wilson has won a 2019 MacArthur Fellowship by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

You can read the full announcement on the UPenn page here.

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(Photo: "_DSC7061" by rhodesj, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 09/26/2019 - 9:55am by Erik Shell.

International Association for Presocratic Studies

Seventh Biennial Conference: 15-19 July 2020
Belo Horizonte, Brazil: Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

Chair of Organizing Committee: Miriam Peixoto

The International Association for Presocratic Studies announces its Seventh Biennial Conference. The meeting will take place at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil 15-19 June 2020 (http://www.ufmg.br). 

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 09/25/2019 - 11:37am by Erik Shell.

Poetry, Philosophy, and Mathematics: Performance, Text, and External Representations in Ancient Greek Cultural Practices

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 09/25/2019 - 11:02am by Erik Shell.

The SCS board of directors has endorsed a statement on the use of student evaluations of teaching developed by the American Sociological Association.

The board has also reaffirmed its own statement of November 28, 2016 that condemns “the use of the texts, ideals, and images of the Greek and Roman world to promote racism or a view of the Classical world as the unique inheritance of a falsely-imagined and narrowly-conceived western civilization.” In accordance with that statement, the board has also endorsed the American Historical Association’s statement on Domestic Terrorism, Bigotry, and History and would like to draw attention to its condemnation of the “recent deployment of histories invented in the interest of bigotry, violence, and division.”

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View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 09/25/2019 - 10:22am by Erik Shell.

Registration is now live for the Spatial Turn in Roman Studies Auckland conference, to be held January 22-24, 2020. For information about the conference, please see https://www.dur.ac.uk/classics/spatialturn/auckland/

If you plan to attend the Auckland conference, please fill out this registration form, including reading the event code of conduct linked to in the form.  

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Wed, 09/25/2019 - 9:09am by Erik Shell.

Here are a few important deadlines coming up at the end of this month:

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View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Fri, 09/20/2019 - 8:32am by Erik Shell.

Of the slew of Disney’s new live-action remakes, perhaps the most anticipated release was this summer’s The Lion King, directed by Jon Favreau. After all, the original 1994 version was arguably the crown jewel of the ‘Disney Renaissance’, enjoying massive commercial and critical success (followed by a highly successful Broadway production). More importantly - at least for those like me who grew up in the 90’s - it was a cultural touchstone, a perennial source of references, parodies, and praise.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 09/19/2019 - 10:00pm by Colin MacCormack.

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