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A Classics take on the 175th

[Logo of Queen's 175th anniversary]

On this day (March 7) 174 years ago, classes began under Peter Colin Campbell, the first professor hired by Queen’s who taught classical literature, and Thomas Liddell, Queen’s founding principal and professor of divinity.

This moment is one of several university “firsts” associated with the Department of Classics. During the university’s 175th anniversary in 2016-17, professors and students plan to highlight the foundational role the classics department has played in the university’s history.

[Photo of book used during first day of classes at Queen's]
Classes at Queen's began on March 7, 1842 with 10 to 12 students participating. The W.D. Jordan Special Collections and Music Library holds some of the same books students would have used at that time, including this compilation of Caesar's work in Latin that was published in 1819. (Photo courtesy of W.D. Jordan Special Collections and Music Library)

“Classics has been here since the beginning and we’re still going strong, nearly 175 years later,” says Barbara Reeves, an associate professor in the department who is helping spearhead the anniversary activities. “Through our Facebook page and different events, we hope to share our own rich history, reconnect with alumni, and contemplate what the future holds.”

Dr. Reeves points to several other notable moments that serve as sources of pride for the department. Robert Sutherland, Queen’s first student and graduate of colour, earned an honours degree in classics and math. He went on to become one of the university’s most important early benefactors. Furthermore, Eliza Fitzgerald, one of the first two women in Ontario to receive a university degree, graduated with Queen’s gold medal for classics. Classics also hired one of the first two female professors at Queen’s, Mary L. MacDonnell.

Over the years, classics has evolved from focusing primarily on Latin and Greek literature and translation to its current multi-disciplinary approach, where students learn about the Greek and Roman worlds through studies of history, literature, archaeology, religion, mythology, drama, science and philosophy.

“Our students have gone on to a variety of occupations and fields of study, and we want them to share their stories with us and current students during the 175th anniversary,” Dr. Reeves says.

The Department of Classics will host a 175th anniversary reception on Oct. 15, 2016 during Queen’s Homecoming. Visit the Department of Classics’ 175th anniversary Facebook page for more information.