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.”

---

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

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The SCS is pleased to announce the appointment of Patrice Rankine and Sasha-Mae Eccleston as guest editors of a future issue of TAPA with the theme of race, racism, and Classics. A detailed call for papers will be issued in early 2020, and a timetable for submissions will be provided. This themed issue is likely to appear as TAPA 153:1 in spring 2023.

View full article. | Posted in Websites and Resources on Sun, 12/29/2019 - 7:32pm by Helen Cullyer.

SCS is pleased to be able to offer professional learning units (PLUs) to K-12 teachers in the District of Columbia who attend the AIA-SCS Annual Meeting from January 2-5 at the Marriott Marquis, Washington DC. Forms for PLUs will be available at the SCS booth in the exhibit hall.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Sun, 12/29/2019 - 7:12pm by Helen Cullyer.

It might seem that Plato and Xenophon have little in common with heavy metal bands; however, they do share an admiration for those warlords of Laconia: the Spartans. In a word, each expressed a degree of laconophilia. What drew ancient philosophers and heavy metal bands alike to Sparta may be a feeling of disenchantment with their respective mainstreams. Socrates’ pupils were no doubt disillusioned with Athenian democracy following his execution in 399 BCE, and the Spartan alternative arguably inspired in Plato’s Republic and Xenophon’s Constitution of the Spartans was a type of escapist fantasy.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 12/27/2019 - 5:55am by Jeremy J. Swist.

The SCS Board is delighted to announce a new prize, which will be awarded for the first time in 2020. The Gruen Prize honors Erich S. Gruen, Gladys Rehard Wood Professor of History and Classics Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley.  It will be an essay prize for the best graduate student research on multiculturalism in the ancient Mediterranean, and submissions about any aspect of race, ethnicity, or cultural exchange will be considered. 

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Mon, 12/23/2019 - 9:53am by Helen Cullyer.

The 2020 Annual Meeting is less than two weeks away.  Registration numbers continue to be strong, but we are still lagging behind with the reservations at the Renaissance hotel.  We understand that some attendees will opt to stay with local friends or find a less-expensive accommodation, but we rely on hotel reservations to secure the meeting space each year.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Sat, 12/21/2019 - 7:03am by Helen Cullyer.

In November of 1897, a review of an English poetry collection titled The Flower of  the Mind was published in literary journal The Academy. In his review of Alice Meynell’s anthology of the great English poems, publisher Grant Richards ruminated on the difficulties, worth, and effects of anthologies as a genre:

Anthologies, these latter years, come thick as Vallombrosa…For the making of an anthology is not merely the prettiest of literary amusements, it is also a delicate and fine mode of criticism. To select is to judge; tacitly, but no less deliberately. Admission or exclusion becomes the last word of a patient investigation, in the course of which, tests for genius are devised, and many an established reputation fails to sustain the ordeal. A history of anthologies would be a curious chronicle of the slow but inevitable determination of greatness.

The invention of literary anthologies, canonical readings, and sourcebooks goes back to antiquity and debates over their construction are perhaps just as archaic. Within the history of western education, the genre is a result of ancient and then medieval teachers and religious figures who privileged the teaching of texts from Homer, Virgil, or Augustine for generations.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 12/20/2019 - 8:12am by Sarah E. Bond.

Special tours for AIA / SCS: January 2, 2020, 3:00-5:00 pm
Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt and Cotsen Textile Traces Study Center
The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum
701 21st Street, NW, Washington, D.C.

Woven Interiors (closing on Jan. 5), co-organized by The Textile Museum and Dumbarton Oaks, presents 45 exceptional interior textiles from the villas, palaces, churches, mosques, and humble homes of late antique and early medieval Egypt (300–1000). Join us for curator-led tours of the exhibition and for a preview of The Cotsen Textile Traces Study Center. Tours will rotate throughout the 2 hour period, so we hope you can join us as your schedules permit. Museum/tour admission free with conference badge or proof of AIA/SCS membership.

The GWUM-TM is located just 1.4 miles from the Marriott Marquis. In addition to walking or taking a taxi/Uber, visitors can use the Metro: from the Mt. Vernon Sq. Station, take the Yellow/Green Metro toward Branch Ave./Huntington, exit at the third stop at L’Enfant Plaza; transfer to Blue/Orange/Silver toward Franconia/Springfield/Vienna/Wiehle-Reston, and exit at the sixth stop at Foggy Bottom-GWU stop; the Museum is just 0.4 miles walk, two blocks east and one block south between H and G Sts. on 21st St. NW. 

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 12/19/2019 - 12:06pm by Erik Shell.

Latin Lexicography Summer School: 20–24 July, 2020

          The Thesaurus Linguae Latinae Institute invites applications for its annual Latin Lexicography Summer School, which will take place in Munich from July 20 to 24, 2020. We welcome participation by researchers at any stage in their career whose work engages rigorously and critically with Latin vocabulary, whether in specific texts or across the entire corpus of ancient Latin. In addition to philology, relevant disciplines include intellectual history, epigraphy, linguistics, literary and textual criticism, medieval and Renaissance studies, philosophy, and theology. This year Prof. Wolfgang de Melo will be present as the scholar in residence.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 12/18/2019 - 2:38pm by Erik Shell.

The Fourteenth International Conference of the Taiwan Association of Classical, Medieval and Renaissance Studies (TACMRS)

23-24 October 2020
National Taiwan University

Call for Papers

Food: Sacrificial, Spiritual, and Secular

Food, whether secular or spiritual, physical or metaphysical, human or nonhuman, has been an important issue throughout the history of this planet. Human history is a long story of appetitive contest with nature and the environment, while consumption is an empowering practice that involves struggle and sacrifice. The matter of food may illuminate or complicate histories of labor, leisure, science, production, ethical considerations, religious discourse and practices, and environmental concerns.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 12/18/2019 - 8:55am by Erik Shell.

Eos: Africana Receptions of Ancient Greece and Rome is excited to invite you to a panel, reception, and showcase at the upcoming SCS Annual Meeting in Washington, DC on the subject of "Black Classicisms in the Visual Arts." We will gather at 5:30pm on Friday, January 3, at 

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 12/17/2019 - 12:11pm by Erik Shell.

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