By Jason Schlude
The 2021-2022 year has brought significant changes to the Classics Program! Some may bring tears to your eyes. Others may fill your hearts with hope and excitement.
First, get those tissues ready. Scott Richardson, after 38 years at CSB+SJU, has retired from formal classroom teaching. At a retirement party in the spring, numerous testaments to his impact on lives at CSB+SJU were on display. One of the most moving was that of a current student, Logan Biren, who offered that Scott, as much as he loves Odysseus, has been more of an Athena-figure to so many students. Not unlike Athena, who guides Odysseus’ son Telemachos to a new stage of life, Scott has been there for generations of students, ready to listen and to help them find and embrace the best versions of themselves.
For my part, there were multiple reasons I came to CSB+SJU. One was that I did my research on Scott Richardson, and I knew enough to know he was safe. :) I was confident we could work as good partners. And that certainly has been true. But what I did not realize was how important a partner he would prove. Scott has been the mentor of a lifetime for me. Most days, from late August through early May, for 8 years, I came to work—and the gift of Scott Richardson. He whizzed in a few minutes before 9am and then off to a string of three and often four classes. You wouldn’t think he would have had any time to mentor at all. But somehow he always found time to ask how I was, care about my answer, drop everything he was doing to help me when I needed it. He let me think out loud (often in a tortured way), coming to ideas that felt new—and Scott acted like it. But I can’t help but believe that Scott already had thought of them (and often thought better of them). These may be the few moments when Scott pretended. In the others, he was—and is—imbued with unmistakable authenticity. He is a model of intelligence, creativity, wit, commitment, humility, generosity—and deep, deep human insight.
In the closing weeks of the semester, I attended three of his final undergraduate classes on Homer’s Odyssey, only to be floored by his insight and humor and ability to make Homer sing in a classroom of modern college students. While those books of the Odyssey have been taught the world over, I am convinced that there is no classroom, the world over, where those books have been better taught. And that is not hyperbole. That is the truth. In those classes with Scott, I was able to find myself in the Odyssey. I was not the only one.
Scott, of course, deserves much more praise. But perhaps the burden of those who have accomplished so much is that they must live on without being fully sung. The complete song can only be witnessed in the numerous lives he has changed. Thank you, Scott, from the bottom of my heart, and congratulations on a truly remarkable career.
Now onto other matters of the heart mentioned above. Let’s talk hope and excitement!
With Scott’s retirement came the opportunity to open our CSB+SJU community to the Classics world and seek new talent to join our crew. The search produced a wealth of incredibly talented applicants. And I am thrilled to announce that in this talented field, we offered the position to Dr. Rachel Mazzara—and she accepted it! So next year Rachel will join CSB+SJU as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics. I cannot overstate how fortuante we are. Rachel earned a B.A. in Classics (Greek and Latin) from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of Toronto, where she wrote a dissertation on “Plautinopolis: Imagination and Representation in Plautus’ Roman Comedy.” This forms the basis of her book project, Poenulus in the Plautine World, which explores the interplay of contemporary Roman history and Plautus’ imaginary world in his Poenulus. Her combined teaching experience as a graduate student at the University of Toronto and more recently as a professor at the University of Toronto, Mississauga, is impressive. Next year Rachel will be teaching courses in introductory and intermediate Latin, advanced Latin courses on Roman comedy and Latin Epic, and cultural courses on Classical Mythology and Truth, Lies, and Fiction in Classical Literature. For more information about Rachel, check out our updated faculty profiles. Welcome, Rachel!
More good news is that Rachel is joining a Classics Program on the upswing. In Fall 2020, perhaps the most difficult semester in any of our teaching careers, Krista Osmundson had the courage to join the Classics Program at a critical time as an Adjunct Instructor of Classics. Krista earned a B.A. in Classics (summa cum laude) at Gustavus Adolphus College and then a M.A. in Classics at the University of Texas, Austin, one of the best Classics programs in the country. Afterwards she enjoyed an impressive career teaching Latin in several elementary and secondary schools, including most recently Eagle Ridge Academy. In her two years with us, Krista has taught courses in introductory and intermediate Latin and introductory Greek. She will be back for more Greek next year. Thank you so much, Krista, for sharing your talent with us!
Beyond this, there is still more to celebrate! Our Classics Program recently completed a successful two-year program review, in which we received high marks in an external review. In addition, the process has allowed us chart the next phase of Classics at CSB+SJU, in collaboration with 10 partner programs at CSB+SJU and abroad. Now we will offer major and minor tracks in Classics: Ancient Mediterranean Studies and Classics: Classical Languages. Check out our newly updated website for details. This new structure will increase student interest in Classics and allow more students to major and minor it. These sorts of changes involve an enormous effort to plan and implement. We thank all who helped us make this possible.
Finally, we must mention, too, how our students are rocking it! We have a vibrant Classics Club with leadership and members that refused to let the pandemic prevent student efforts to connect with one another. Students like Logan Biren, Maia Reuter, Maria Lindsay, and Catie Parker have used the club as an opportunity to build friendships and interest in Classics. Among other activities this year, the Classics Club supported a trip to the Minneapolis Institute of Art in the spring for a tour of their ancient collections. It was great fun! In addition, the club secured, for the first time at CSB+SJU, a chapter of Eta Sigma Phi, the National Classics Honor Society. This membership will allow us to better honor student work and success in Classics at CSB+SJU, and it will open up additional scholarship opportunities for our students. For some of what the Classics Club has been up to, check out: https://www.instagram.com/CSB+SJUclassicsclub/.
Thank you all for being such an important part of the Classics community at CSB+SJU. Please do stay in touch, and let us know how we can continue to support you!
College of Saint Benedict
Saint John’s University
Chair, Languages and Cultures Department
CSB Richarda P16
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SJU Quad 253A