The historic Douglass College Dean’s Residence on Nichol Avenue was the setting on Tuesday 7 May 2013 for one the highlights of the Rutgers Classics calendar—a mega-ritual that combines the annual Eta Sigma Phi initiation into the National Classics Honors Society; honors thesis presentations (two this year); and then finally, a congratulatory ceremony for our graduating seniors.
Associate Professor (and Classics Undergraduate Director) Leah Kronenberg presided over the event, in which she stressed for the standing-room only crowd—though thankfully all parents and grandparents in attendance received a seat!—precisely what it means to study the Classics in the 21st century.Professor Kronenberg emphasized at the ceremony that “the breadth of view that Classics can provide is an important one, and it’s a value that is often lost in the hyper-career and employment-focused world of higher education—but it is not a value that has been lost on our majors… there is something valuable about studying so-called dead languages and ancient civilizations that goes beyond what can be quantified in employment statistics or summed up in buzz words like ‘analytical and communication skills’.”
Addressing the Eta Sigma Phi initiates and graduating seniors, Professor Kronenberg underlined that “you have learned to ask Socratic questions about the meaning of the good life, to reflect on the interactions of politics and literature, to think about different forms of government and different scientific conceptions of the universe and the gods—this type of learning can’t all be summed up in the concrete learning outcomes that we all dutifully list on our syllabi now—but they are things that will stay with you throughout your life and help to shape who you are—and not just what work you do.”
The Classics honor society Eta Sigma Phi was founded at the University of Chicago in 1914, and became nationalized in 1924. The Rutgers Chapter is entitled Zeta Epsilon. The purpose of the society is, according to its constitution, to “further the spirit of cooperation and good will among the members of classical departments and to stimulate interest in the study of the classics and to increase our knowledge of the art and literature of ancient Greece and Rome.” There are over 180 chapters of Eta Sigma Phi throughout the United States.
One of last year’s initiates, Meghan Kiernan (Class of 2014), assisted undergraduate director Professor Leah Kronenberg in the all-important task of crowning each recipient with a vaguely-classical ivy wreath. (The ivy, which is associated with the Bacchanalia of Dionysus, seemed not inappropriate for college students.)
The 2013 initiates were: Tyler Archer (Class of 2015), a sophomore majoring in Classics and minoring in Psychology; Janine Ganapin (2015), a History and Medieval Studies double-major who is seriously considering a Classics minor; Dana Hayes (2015), a Classical Humanities major and recipient of the 2013 Cornelison Prize given for all around excellence in Classical studies to a member of Douglass College; Bernard Lin (2015), a student of Latin, Greek, and Economics at Rutgers; Ariana Lutz (2015), majoring in Linguistics while pursuing a minor in Classics; Joey Panarese (2014), a Classical Humanities and Economics major, who is also the Classics Club Public Relations officer; and Kathryn Tomiak (2015), majoring in English and minoring in Latin and Classics.
Congratulations to this year’s Eta Sigma Phi initiates!
Next on the agenda were two honors thesis writers—Erica Andersen and Benjamin Bhamdeo (each Class of 2013)—who presented summaries of their research. Rutgers seniors who want to earn honors in Classics have the option to spend part of their senior year researching a topic of interest to them and producing an original piece of research on that topic under the guidance of a professor.
Erica Andersen worked with Associate Professor Corey Brennan on a thesis entitled “Ancient Perspectives of the Female Body and their Presence in Modern Athletics”
Ben Bhamdeo worked with Distinguished Professor of Classics and Ancient History Thomas J. Figueira on a thesis “Morality and Realpolitik in the Athenian Speech at the Peloponnesian Congress in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War”. For that thesis Ben has been awarded a university-wide prize called the Henry Rutgers Scholar Award for his work.
The final part of the ceremony recognized the graduating seniors in our department.
As Professor Kronenberg called each student up for recognition, she presented each with a medal depicting the goddess Athena. It was pointed out that “Athena is the Greek goddess of Wisdom; she is also a goddess of war, but we’re going for the wisdom part.”
Erica Anderson is a Classical Humanities and Biological Sciences major and a German minor. She is graduating with high honors in Classics. She is a member of Eta Sigma Phi and Phi Sigma Iota, the foreign language honors society. She was the president of the RU Ski/Snowboard Team this year and they made it to nationals in Idaho for the first time ever. She hopes to eventually go to graduate school. Erica thanked her high school Latin teacher, Mr. David Partridge, for sparking her interest in Classics
Benjamin Bhamadeo is a Classical Humanities major and history and political science minor. He is graduating with highest honors in Classics, won a Henry Rutgers Scholar Award, and is a member of Eta Sigma Phi. He is currently a programmer doing Web Development at Develop.io, a small team in Colonia, NJ. Future plans potentially include creative writing, and personal software development. He also plans to apply to law schools with a focus on intellectual property law and technology law in the near future.
Margaret Green is a Classical Humanities major with minors in Art History and Anthropology and is a member of Eta Sigma Phi and Phi Beta Kappa. She revived the Classics Club at Rutgers and served as president from 2011-2012 (and we are all very grateful to her for doing so). She is planning to go into cultural heritage preservation as a career with a focus on heritage tourism, with work and study that combine her interest in program and event planning, tourism, and historic sites.
Alexandra Rezvina has a double major in Classical Humanities and English and is a member of Eta Sigma Phi. She was awarded the Ralph Bergen Allen Prize in English Composition as well as the Michele Muncy Academic Excellence Award. She won a fellowship to study abroad this past fall semester at the renowned Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome, and next year, she is going to be attending the Post-Baccalaureate Program in Classics at UPenn, all with an eye toward applying to PhD programs in Classics.
Kelly Sweeney is a Classical Humanities and Art History major with a minor in Evolutionary Anthropology. She has been instrumental to the continuing success of the Classics Club this year. She is hoping to find a job in the Cultural Resource Management field, whether with a private company or with the government. Her long term plan is to go back to school for graduate work in archaeology.
Four graduating seniors received acknowledgement of their accomplishments in absentia.
Zeyad Assaf undertook the challenging “language intensive” version of the Classics major (with a focus on Latin, though he aced elementary Greek, as well, and even took some modern Greek). His coursework in Latin literature included advanced courses on Virgil’s Aeneid, Ovid, and Cicero’s philosophical works, and he combined all of this language work with a rigorous major in Philosophy.
Matthew Mihok, while technically a Classical Humanities major, took several upper level Latin literature courses and also minored in Anthropology. He plans to work for a few years after college and is considering perhaps teaching Latin eventually.
Leann Rosania is a Classical Humanities major, though she also went beyond the intermediate language requirement and chose to take an advanced Latin course on Virgil. She has also studied some modern Greek and medieval history, and combines all of this with a major in anthropology.
Daniel Zmachinski took his first Classics course his sophomore year of college (Greek and Roman mythology) and soon thereafter became a Classical Humanities major. In addition to Classical Humanities courses, he took Latin through the intermediate level and also combined his Classical studies with a rigorous Philosophy major and Spanish minor.
“I think our graduates have shown”, concluded Professor Kronenberg at the gathering, “there is absolutely no limit to what you can do with a Classics degree and we are so proud of everything you all have accomplished. Congratulations to the class of 2013!”