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Department ofClassics

About Us

This is the exposition of my inquiries, so that the events do not fade with time, nor the great and wondrous deeds performed by administrators and Classics faculty ever become unheard-of, including among other things the reason why Classics moved around so much.

Helen Moritz joined what was then called the University of Santa Clara in 1977. When she arrived, Classics was an interdepartmental program centered in St. Joseph’s Hall. Classics had its own chair (George Sullwold from English), a couple of designated faculty, and most importantly its own letterhead. Despite the letterhead, students in those days could not major in Classics and the majority of faculty who contributed to the program belonged to other departments. That faculty included Walter J. Kropp S.J., who donated his book collection to Classics when he retired and after whom the Walter J. Kropp S.J. prize, awarded to the graduating Classics major with the highest GPA, is named. 

Helen Moritz became chair of the Classics program shortly after she arrived and in 1981 persuaded the administration to grant Classics full departmental status. Odysseus himself would have marveled. Now, like some modern Pygmalion, or perhaps more like Hephaistos crafting Pandora, Professor Moritz had to give shape to the new department she had created. In 1987 she recruited William Greenwalt away from the History Department, where he had been teaching since 1982. Two Latinists, the Barbaras Gold and Pavlock, were hired and moved on before Moritz and Greenwalt hired John Heath in 1991. Thirty years later the jury is still out on whether “the third time’s the charm” or “three strikes and you’re out” is the more fitting adage. Either way, these three faculty members formed the core of the Classics department for the next twenty years. 

They were not the only members of the department, however. John Dunlap fled the English department in 1998 and found refuge with the now four-person Classics department, though he still taught three courses every year for English. Scott Labarge was hired in 2001 as a joint member of Philosophy and Classics, and Michael McCarthy came to SCU in 2003 as a member of Religious Studies and Classics. Over the years several temporary faculty also passed through the department, many of whom went on to have successful academic careers elsewhere. 

The core Classics faculty spent most of these early years located on the second floor of O’Connor.  During this time Judy Gillette, who was the administrative assistant for History, began helping Classics in the same capacity. After about a decade in O’Connor, the growth of the History and Math departments pushed Classics, a fledgling by comparison, out of the building.  John Heath’s office was promptly and appropriately turned into a bathroom, while a bathroom at the other end of the hall was simultaneously turned into a faculty office. 

The Classics faculty landed in trailers. After two years working from the trailers, the Classics faculty found a new home in 741 Franklin St.,  a small Victorian just off campus that the university had refitted to serve as faculty office space. The Classics faculty affectionately dubbed their new home “The Classics House.” The Classics House had just enough space for the five faculty offices the department needed, with an extra room for small seminars and the book collection Kropp had left them. 

It was during the department’s time in the Classics House, roughly thirty years after she had founded the department, that Helen Moritz announced her imminent retirement. Her announcement brought about the first change to the core Classics faculty in over a decade. In 2010 Daniel Turkeltaub was hired to be the department’s next Hellenist. The following year, Carolynn Roncaglia was hired on an annual basis to teach ancient history courses while William Greenwalt served the university in various administrative roles.   

The department’s days in the Classics House ended in the summer of 2012. SCU sold the historic home for $1 to somebody who would uproot it and transport it elsewhere so that the space could be used to erect a new building for the Art and Art History Department and a parking garage. Legend has it that the administration considered leaving Classics in The Classics House when it was taken away. After dismissing that idea, they considered putting Classics in the new parking garage. In the end they decided instead to move Classics into 874 Lafayette St., a much larger Victorian. The Classics faculty affectionately dubbed their new home “The Classics House.”  We pride ourselves on our originality. With the move to the Lafayette house, Classics was not only pushed further off-campus, their office phones were taken away for good measure. In this and many other ways the new Classics House remains to this day an absolutely perfect fit for the department. Please come visit whenever you’re in town. 

Once the Classics Department settled into their new home, changes happened rapidly. John Dunlap retired at the end of spring quarter 2014, and Lissa Crofton-Sleigh was hired the following fall on a yearly basis. At the end of that quarter Helen Moritz retired. A large, university-wide celebration was held in her honor. The following fall, the Classics department rehired Carolynn Roncaglia, now as a tenure-track professor, and hired Angela Holzmieister to fill the position John Dunlap previously held. At the end of fall quarter 2015, Judy Gillete retired and Carole Wentz became the department’s new administrative assistant. Shortly thereafter, Michael McCarthy left SCU to become a Vice-President of Fordham University. The department had changed drastically over a mere two years.  

A few relatively calm years of classes, research, and listening to William Greenwalt grumble ensued before the 2018-2019 academic year brought another burst of change. In Spring 2018 John Heath stepped down from his long-standing role as department chair and Daniel Turkeltaub assumed the position. With the change, departmental leadership shifted to the newer generation of Classics faculty. Shortly thereafter Carole Wentz retired as the department administrator and Melissa Sims was hired in her place. In fall 2018, Scott Labarge officially moved fully into Philosophy, and in spring 2019 Lissa Crofton-Sleigh was rehired on a more permanent basis. Her promotion increased the size of the Classics Department to six full continuing lines.  During this time William Greenwalt announced that he would begin phased retirement in 2020-21 and retire fully at the end of the 2021-22 academic year. His grumbling will be missed. 

That is where SCU Classics has been and where it is now. You can learn more about the current Classics faculty in the “Faculty Profiles” section and more about events in Classics this year in the “Events” section.