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 following was approved by the SCS board of directors on February 7, 2020.

The Society for Classical Studies joins the Society of Architectural Historians in opposing the proposed Executive Order “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again.”  As students and scholars of the ancient Greco-Roman world and its ongoing cultural impact, we recognize that classical antiquity provided some of the many traditions that have shaped this nation, and we appreciate the examples of neo-classical architecture, both public and private, to be found throughout the United States.  But we firmly believe that the architectural style of public buildings should not be dictated in advance, but rather freely and deliberately chosen in view of all relevant considerations, and we reject the supposition that a style derived from classical models is necessarily better suited than any other to express the history, values, and aspirations of the American people.

Please see the letter below from the Society of Architectural Historians and a number of other scholarly societies, including SCS.

February 10, 2020

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

Re: Opposition to proposed Executive Order “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again”

Dear Mr. President,

View full article. | Posted in Public Statements on Mon, 02/10/2020 - 11:49am by Helen Cullyer.

The deadline to apply for Classics Everywhere is February 14, 2020.

Applications can be submitted through the above link by filling out the application form linked half way down the page.

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

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 02/10/2020 - 8:29am by Erik Shell.

The Bridge, a digital humanities initiative out of Haverford College, allows users to generate customized vocabulary lists in both Greek and Latin. Bret Mulligan and a team of dedicated students have done an admirable job of adding texts to their database and are responsive to requests from users (both students and instructors). An accompanying blog helpfully documents the different updates as they are released, as well as a list of requested features, so users can get a sense of what’s in the works for The Bridge. Development has been funded both by Haverford College as well as by a Mellon Digital Humanities Grant and a program grant from the Classical Association of the Atlantic States (CAAS). There have also been collaborators from Bryn Mawr College and Laboratoire d’Analyse Statistique des Langues Anciennes (LASLA) at the Université de Liège, making this a model of a collaborative digital project that can draw on funding and labor from a number of institutions to create an open resource that helps all teachers and students.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 02/07/2020 - 6:37am by .

In 2020 the Society for Classical Studies (SCS) will again award the David D. and Rosemary H. Coffin Fellowship for study and travel in classical lands.

The Fellowship is intended to recognize secondary-school teachers of Greek or Latin who are as dedicated to their students as the Coffins themselves by giving them the opportunity to enrich their teaching and their lives through direct acquaintance with the classical world.  It will support study in classical lands (not limited to Greece and Italy); the recipient may use it to attend an educational program in (e.g. American Academy, American School) or to undertake an individual plan of study or research. It may be used either for summer study or during a sabbatical leave, and it may be used to supplement other awards or prizes.

For full details and instructions please visit the David D. and Rosemary H. Coffin Fellowship page. Materials must be received no later than February 27, 2020.

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View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 02/04/2020 - 12:35pm by Erik Shell.

Cultural Identity in Political Rhetoric: Past and Present

Society for Classical Studies 2021 Annual Meeting – January 7-10, Chicago, IL

Organizer: Tedd A. Wimperis (twimperis@elon.edu)

Rhetorical appeals to ethnic or civic identity were a mainstay of political discourse in the ancient Mediterranean. Arguments from cultural heritage and mythical kinship between peoples supported diplomatic negotiation; orators invoked values and traditions inherited from past generations to sway audiences; autocrats wove their personal iconography into the fabric of the “national story” to legitimize and authorize their power. Politically-guided ideations of identity were promoted through literature, art, architecture, coinage, and various forms of performance, and relied on effective appropriations of cultural symbolism and myth. Here and now in our own modern world, these kinds of discourse remain entrenched in political communication, from the extremes of ethno-nationalism to the commonplaces of campaign rhetoric, where appeals to “who we are” and “what our values are” appear explicitly and subtly in televised debates and hearings, tweets, billboards, and bumper stickers.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 02/04/2020 - 8:47am by Erik Shell.

“Koinonia” in Plato’s Philosophy

March 8-12, 2021
Pontifical Catholic University of Peru
Lima, Peru

Plato uses the term “Koinonia” in a wide variety of important ways.  It signifies the relation of the forms with each other as well as the relation we can have with them, but also both relations between individual people and between individuals and the community as a whole.  Although this term has been the object of intense scholarly scrutiny, many issues remain to be explored.  We will consider abstracts on any aspect of the subject, including the metaphysical, epistemological, social, and ethical dimensions of koinonia.

Submission guidelines:

1. Please submit titles and abstracts of 500 words (maximum), double-spaced, 12 point type, formatted for anonymous review

2. Name, Paper Title, Affiliation, Postal Address, Email Address included as an attachment in the email to which the abstract is sent

3. Abstracts can be in any of the IPS’s official languages: English, Spanish, German, Italian, French

4. Abstracts Submission Deadline: July 31, 2020.

5. All abstracts must be sent with the subject "IPS Mid-Term Meeting" to the following address: cef@pucp.edu.pe

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 01/31/2020 - 8:58am by Erik Shell.

On January 5, 2020, the SCS Board of Directors approved a name change for the Minority Scholarship in Classics and Classics Archaeology. The scholarships will now be known as the Frank M. Snowden Jr. Undergraduate Scholarships. The name change was recommended by President-Elect Shelley P. Haley and the SCS Committee on Diversity in the Profession.

The new name honors Frank M. Snowden Jr., the renowned black classicist, chair for many years of the Howard Classics Department, and author of Blacks in Antiquity, which won the Charles J. Goodwin Award of Merit in 1973. Prof. Snowden was also a recipient of the National Humanities Medal and was elected by the SCS (then APA) membership to the position of second Vice President, serving in that role in 1983-84. According to the cursus honorum at the time, Prof. Snowden should have become President in 1986. However, he had to step down owing to poor health, which was a huge loss to the organization and the profession. You can read a full biography of Professor Snowden here.   

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Thu, 01/30/2020 - 9:49am by Helen Cullyer.

The tale of Orpheus and Eurydice has long been a popular myth in music, drama, literature, and film. Anais Mitchell’s recent musical sensation Hadestown (which was workshopped from 2006 and had an off-Broadway debut during the 2017-18 season) is but one example of the reworking of the legendary love story. Although Mitchell’s musical is broadly defined as a folk opera, it is just the latest instance amongst many pop culture reinterpretations of the Orpheus myth across different musical genres. The tragic tale of a famed musician who traveled to the underworld to retrieve his love from the grips of death has inspired several musicians during the 1990s and the 2000s. Many of these retellings have engaged with one of the most important themes of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth: the power of music and art to provide salvation.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 01/30/2020 - 9:29am by .

Please see our 2021 Annual Meeting page for a number of calls for abstracts from our affiliated groups, organizers of organizer-refereed panels, the Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance, and the Committee on Translations of Classical Authors.

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(Photo: "Handwritten" by A. Birkan, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 01/27/2020 - 5:45pm by Helen Cullyer.

Call for Abstracts: Greco-Roman Antiquity and White Supremacy

Society for Classical Studies Annual Meeting, Jan 7–10, 2021

Curtis Dozier, director of Pharos: Doing Justice to the Classics (pharosclassics.vassar.edu), invites the submission of abstracts on any aspect of the relationship of Greco-Roman Antiquity and White Supremacy. Selected abstracts will form a proposal for a panel on the topic to be held at the 2021 Society for Classical Studies annual meeting in Chicago, IL (Jan 7–10, 2021). If the SCS Program committee accepts our proposed panel, the Vassar College Department of Greek and Roman Studies will offer panelists who do not have tenured or tenure-track positions a $500 stipend toward the cost of attending the conference. Pharos is also offering a research service for those interested in preparing abstracts but who prefer not to visit White Supremacist websites (on which see below).

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 01/27/2020 - 11:46am by Erik Shell.

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