Photo: Production of Julius Caesar, 1912. Courtesy of the Rare Book Room of Foley Library Center.
I. The Early Years: Classical Studies at Gonzaga (1887 to 1948)
The study of the Classical languages has an exceedingly long and venerable history at Gonzaga University. Instruction in Latin began at the school's foundation in 1887, and along with Greek, which was added in the following year, the ancient languages quickly became a central component of Gonzaga's early curriculum. Latin and Greek requirements for first and second year students were in place by 1890. Students were expected to arrive at Gonzaga having already learned their Latin and Greek fundamentals, and in their college courses they were expected to study a wide range of ancient authors including Cicero, Horace, Virgil, Homer and Xenophon. The program owns the distinction of having some of the earliest instructors at Gonzaga dedicated specifically to the teaching of the discipline, with a teacher of "Classics" in 1897 and a "Latin Instructor" in 1900 listed in the early course catalogues.
Photo: Gonzaga Latin Medal awarded to Joseph McKenna, 1892. McKenna was a Spokane resident and a GU High School graduate when he received this gold medal for best exam in Latin in 1892. He went on to graduate from Gonzaga College in 1898 as a Humanities Major. Photo courtesy of the Rare Book Room in Foley Center Library.
As the Gonzaga grew during the early decades of the 20th century, the position of the Classical languages within the school's curriculum was further strengthened through the concretization of the university's BA degree requirements and offerings. By the mid-1910s, Latin and Greek were required for every student in the freshman and sophomore years. Coursework in Yanni's Greek Grammar and Latin Grammar consisted of exposure to both prose and poetry, with featured selections from authors such as Cicero, Virgil, Horace, Demosthenes, St. John Chrysostom, Homer, Plato, Sophocles and Euripides. By 1920, all students were directed to take 8 hours of Latin and 8 hours of Greek or a modern language in both freshmen and sophomore years of their BA course of studies. Shortly afterwards, in 1926, Latin and Greek became major fields for a Gonzaga degree. In the same year, what might arguably be called Gonzaga's first classical civilizations course appears in the catalogue. This offering for scholastics, called the "Classical Academy", is described as a weekly meeting dedicated to "review and further study of Greek and Latin Languages and discussions on Greco-Roman culture". In 1924, Gonzaga offered the first summer courses in Latin, classes primarily meant to provide additional training for "Religious Sisters" in the region.
Photo: Harry "Bing" Crosby graduated from Gonzaga High School in 1920, having studied the Classical Course. He went on to study pre-law at GU, but did not finish. Crosby remains one of the most well-known alumni of the school, thanks to a widely popular career in music and movies. Less widely known is his passion for Latin, which he studied at GU. As one of his biographer's wrote, "Bing Crosby is the only major singer in American popular music to enjoy the virtues of a Classical education." (Giddins, Pocketful of Dreams, pg. 56). Photo courtesy of the Rare Book Room in Foley Center Library.
II. The Golden Age of the Classical Languages Department (1949 to 1999)
Gonzaga's departmental organization, curriculum, and degree offerings underwent significant reorganization in the 1949-50 academic year. For the very first time, a Department of Classical Languages appears in the university's catalogue, which announced specific degree requirements for majors and minors in Latin and Greek. To even enter the major and minor programs, freshmen and sophomores were required to complete 12 hours of upper-level Latin or Greek at any level. This pre-major requirement was essentially half of the combined Latin and Greek (or modern language) hours formerly required for all Gonzaga students, but now dropped as a mandatory part of the BA degree core. Those choosing to participate in the Classical Languages program were then to complete a total 30 hours of upper division Latin or Greek for the major or 24 hours for the minor as well as to pass a comprehensive examination at the end of the senior year. Starting in 1949, Gonzaga also offered an MA degree in Latin or Greek, requiring a total of 24 hours of coursework, with at least 12 hours in graduate level courses and the remainder in upper division classes, a thesis, a prescribed reading list, and a course (Lat. 201/Gr. 201) in comparative grammar of Greek and Latin. After 1959, limited graduate courses were offered only at Mount St. Michael's College.
Also first offered in 1949 was a new degree option, the Honorary Classical AB degree (later referred to as the Bachelor of Arts, Classical). To receive this degree, students were to complete 12 hours of Latin during the first two years at Gonzaga as well as 6 hours of Greek or a modern language in the second year. They did not need to major in the Classical languages to participate. The BA Classical degree would continue to be offered to Gonzaga undergraduates for half a century with only minor adjustments, until its ultimate removal from the catalogue in 1999.
Photo: Classics Professor Fr. John H. Taylor. S. J., Spires 1962. "Fr. Taylor was a kind and generous man," remembers Dr. Joseph Day '70, Professor of Classics Emeritus at Wabash College. Photo courtesy of the Rare Book Room at Foley Center Library.
Throughout the 1950s and into the 1970s, BA degrees in Latin or Greek continued to be available, with degree requirements rarely changing. All majors were required to complete a comprehensive examination their senior year, although in 1971 they were provided with the option to write a senior thesis. It is at this time that the familiar CLAS 499 designation for the senior thesis course made its debut in the catalogue.
While degree requirements remained relatively constant, however, the department's general program and offerings underwent several profound structural changes in the mid-1960s, resulting in what could be justifiably argued was the Golden Age of education in Classics at Gonzaga. In 1965 the department offered its first Classics courses in English. An increasingly wide selection of such courses would be offered from this time onwards, on such topics as Greek and Roman literature in translation, Greek and Roman drama, Greek and Roman art and archaeology, mythology, education in the ancient world, classical rhetoric, classical epic, and literary criticism in antiquity. Students were also urged to include non-language electives in related fields in other departments (e.g. philosophy, history, comparative literature). A short-lived departmental honors program (1963-1969) was created at this time for juniors and seniors who were enrolled in Gonzaga's Honor Program, to provide discussions on topics and books in a special seminar format. Furthermore, the MA program was revitalized in 1965 and graduate courses were offered again at Gonzaga for those who wished to pursue a degree in summer sessions or part-time during the academic year. The Classics program was also tied in with the education program at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, offering support for both a BA degree in Latin with teacher certification and a M.Ed. with a Latin teaching minor.
During the late 1960s two additional developments in the Classical Languages department underscore the program's increasing diversity of content and its steady involvement in Gonzaga's overall mission. First, a major in Classical Civilization was offered in 1969. Its requirements included 6 hours of either Greek or Latin on the intermediate level or higher; one course selected from the Classical Courses in English; six courses on classical civilization to be selected from upper division CLAS courses as well as courses offered in other departments in the area of Greek and Roman philosophy, history, political science, and literature in translation; and a senior thesis to be approved by the chairman of the department. Second, the department's role in the broader educational mission of Gonzaga was reaffirmed in 1965, when the catalogue recognized the successful completion of Latin and Greek classes as fulfilling the core language requirement of the university. Although these requirements changed somewhat during the 1970s, the program continued to play an active role in the university core, permitting students with an interest in the classical languages or ancient society to take coursework in those fields as a means of fulfilling their general requirements. Thus while the Classical languages were nowhere near as obligatory to completion of the Gonzaga BA degree as they had been in pre-1949 years, they were still given an active role to play in the core educational mission of the university.
Photo: Students perform the play Electra on the steps of the Crosby Library (later Crosby Student Center), in August 1964. Photo courtesy of the Rare Book Room of Foley Center Library.
By the late 1970s, however, the department apparently faced mounting difficulties in meeting its programmatic mission, part of a trend witnessed in higher education across the US. Changes included a steady decrease of departmental offerings, a reduction of instructors (from 8 in 1975 to 3 in 1981), and the disappearance of graduate MA and teaching degrees by 1977. That year also saw the removal of Greek as a major field in the College of Arts & Sciences, an event presaged by a plaintive note in the 1975 catalogue indicating that "students wishing to complete the major in Greek may do so if the courses are available." By 1979, the major degree requirements were rewritten to indicate that the 18 hours of upper division language courses could now be completed in both languages together (Latin and Greek), rather than a specific focus upon only one. Teaching personnel was now sadly reduced to the point that those upper level classes would be offered "generally as tutorials, flexibly scheduled according to the resources of the department."
In spite of the drop in faculty numbers (down to two professors by 1981), the Classical Languages department underwent a major programmatic restructuring in 1981 that would remain in place for the next twenty years. Under this reorganization, initiated by Fr. Fredric Schlatter, S.J., the program now offered a total of seven undergraduate degrees, three BA majors and four minors. The major subject fields were Latin, Classics, and Classical Civilizations, and all three carried a no-credit thesis requirement (CLAS 499) for the senior year. The four minor degrees were in Latin, Greek, Classics, and Classical Civilizations. The number of participating undergraduates remained quite small, however, and in some years there were no majors or minors at all. Yet the quality of the students remained high, and several continued on to enroll in MA and PhD programs following their graduation. Thus while the department had unquestionably shrunk in size and course offerings by the early 1980s, it continued to serve its mission of providing access to the classical languages and cultures, offering a broad array of degree options and a small student-faculty ratio that ensured individual attention and mentoring. While students could no longer substitute a Classical Civilizations course for the core language requirement by the mid-1970s, the Latin and Greek courses still could be used to fulfill Gonzaga's limited language requirement, which had been reduced to a single semester by 1999. This provision ensured enrollments in the department's lower division language courses and kept the program involved in contributing to Gonzaga's core curriculum.
III. The Classical Civilizations Department in the 21st Century: A Renewed Commitment (1999 to Present)
The past decade has admittedly been a difficulty one for the program, beginning with the pivotal academic year 1998-99. At the end of 1998 Fr. Frederic Schlatter S.J. retired as Emeritus Professor after many years of dedicated service to the department of Classical Languages. Fr. Schlatter had served as endowed chair of the department and through his exceptional scholarly and teaching skills provided a unique gift and service to the department, enabling it almost single-handedly to provide numerous courses and offerings particularly in instruction of Greek and Latin on the higher levels. His imminent retirement drew the following recommendation during the university's 1994 accreditation evaluation: "Upon the retirement of the current endowed chair holder, the university will need to reassess its commitment to the program as well as the program's structural placement within the College of Arts and Sciences." The decision which the administration eventually reached was not one with direct benefits for the language program: Fr. Schlatter's position in Classics was replaced by a tenure-track line in ancient history within the History Department. While this ensured that the program would continue to have courses in Greek and Roman history, it left the Classical Language department with no tenured or tenure-track faculty holding doctoral degrees in the field. The leadership of the department subsequently devolved to Dr. Rob Kugler, Associate Professor of Religious Studies. As chair Prof. Kugler revised the program requirements with an eye toward increasing enrollments in language courses and boosting the number of majors and minors. Prof. Kugler consulted with Fr. Schlatter, Fr. McFarland (the Dean of Arts and Sciences), and Fr. Kenneth Krall over the course of several months and in the Spring 2000 the University's Academic Council approved the proposed changes. It was at this time the department's name was changed from the Department of Classical Languages to the Department of Classical Civilizations.
Under the direction of Prof. Kugler, the program dropped all degrees in Latin, Greek and Classics, retaining only the BA major and minor in Classical Civilizations, which now became the focus of the department. The senior thesis requirement was left in place, and for both the major and minor, the CLAS electives could be taken from within the department or from courses in other departments which dealt with Greek and Roman philosophy, history, political science, speech and literature. Beginning in 2001, the department also began once again to offer elementary courses in Greek and Latin in the summer. In order to keep the program operational, Fr. Schlatter graciously agreed to continue to teach the upper division language courses, what were in essence special tutorials that provided the limited number of students in the upper division Latin and Greek courses with his considerable expertise in the ancient languages. To help fill the staffing gap elsewhere in the program, Fr. Ken Krall moved from Campus Ministry in the fall of 2000 to assume full-time teaching responsibilities as Instructor in the Department of Classical Civilizations. His chief responsibility became the lower level language courses (LATN and GREK 101-102, 201-202), and since 2000 his exceptional talents as a teacher have accounted for a steady, substantial increase in the numbers of introductory and intermediate students. In June 2002, after Prof. Kugler departed for Lewis and Clark College, Prof. Patrick Hartin, Professor of Religious Studies with an expertise in New Testament Studies, was appointed the new chair of Classical Civilizations. To increase the program's depleted staffing, adjuncts from other departments and outside the university were hired in order to support the coursework in Greek and Classical Civilizations.
Photo: Current faculty members of the Classical Civlizations Department (L to R): Fr. Ken Krall, Dr. David Oosterhuis, Dr. Andrew Goldman.
Following these readjustments, the condition of the department and degree program has remained relatively stable since 2002. In 2007, Dr. Andrew Goldman (Assoc. Professor in the History Department) replaced Fr. Hartin as the new program head. Minor changes in the major degree requirements have been instituted: students must now choose a concentration in either Latin or Greco-Roman Civilizations, and seniors now take the thesis course for credit. Those students in the Greco-Roman civilizations concentration are required to take at least one course in Greek and one course in Roman civilization, as a means of better balancing their curriculum to embrace both cultures. In 2004, the department decided to focus instructional resources on its Latin curriculum, since increasing enrollment in the introductory and intermediate Latin courses indicated rising student interest in that area. Since no additional faculty resources were forthcoming, instruction in Greek was necessarily scaled back to accommodate an enlarged number of Latin sections. As a direct result, Introductory Greek (GREK 101 and 102) is now offered every other year, alternating with the Intermediate Greek courses (GREK 201 and 202). However, offerings from the History Department were expanded in 2006 to include classes on archaeological topics by Dr. Goldman, helping to broaden the civilization component of the degrees.
The future of the program is looking positive. Enrollment since 1995 has increased annually within departmental offerings, with strong student numbers in the introductory language classes and the Classical Civilizations topics courses. Since 2009, the department has graduated 5-11 seniors per year. In addition, the administration has finally responded to the staffing needs of the program, and a new full-time tenure track position was created in the Fall 2010 semester, filled by Dr. David Oosterhuis, an expert in the study and transmission of Vergil and his works. This has allowed us to reduce our student-faculty ratio, which has decreased to approximately 12:1, one of the lowest on campus. By creating smaller classes and greater student-faculty interaction, it is hoped that the number of majors, minors and enrollments in the department's upper division courses will continue to expand. Students are currently required to take only a single semester of language courses to fulfill their core requirement, so that retention is by no means assured beyond the first semester (101) class. This new course of action seems to be working: we have recorded the highest number of majors and minors in the program’s history over the past several years.
Photo: Members of the graduating class of 2015, the largest ever for the department, with 11 seniors, including (L to R): Holdt Klohe, Scott Dollen, Ned Fischer, Sophia Shokri, Katie Gibbs, Zach Lilly, Sara Frase, and Sarah Hartwig.
As a further means of attracting and retaining students, new topics courses have been introduced into the program since Spring 2008. Joining classes on Greek myth and Homer in translation are new courses (some cross-listed with other departments) about Women in the Ancient World, Introduction to Classical Literature (in translation), the Roman Epic, Greek tragedy, Greek Drama, the art and architecture of the ancient Greece and Rome, accelerated language courses in the summer, and much much more. These new courses have been made possible through the recruitment of Gonzaga professors and adjuncts, all of whom have professional training in aspects of the ancient world (i.e. in philosophy, religious studies) and have volunteered their expertise to improve the program. In addition, the department began to offer New Testament Greek in the fall of 2008, and ancient Hebrew is being offered once again on a limited basis, through the Department of Religious Studies. Furthermore, in 2012 we began our first study abroad program, Gonzaga-in-Turkey, with 17 students and 3 professors spending a month traveling the breadth of Turkey, studying ancient empires and walking in the steps of St. Paul. Such developments, which include solid retention numbers in the intermediate language courses, high numbers in elective classes focused on ancient cultures (in history, philosophy, and religious studies), and a growing number of majors and minor, bode well for the future of the Classical Civilizations program, which can be argued is now experiencing a modest, yet clear resurgence in enrollment and student interest. For more info on recent events, please see the webpage containing our biannual newsletter (available in downloadable PDF form).
Photo: Dr. Oosterhuis at work, on Fall Family Weekend 2015, discussing with visiting parents and students the importance of our Classical heritage.
(Compiled by A. L Goldman, with assistance from M. Palmquist, a McDonald Work Study Grant, and the staff of the Gonzaga Rare Book Room, Nov. 2009; updated June 2015)