Classics Coming of Age at Samford
Samford's Department of Classics will reach a milestone this spring.
Established four years ago with Baylor University scholar Randy
Todd as chair, it will graduate its first two majors in May.
Not many universities offer a full-fledged classics major in this
era of tightened budgets in higher education. But Samford is an
exception, for good reason.
"The civilization of the Greeks and Romans is foundational
to all western traditions," noted Samford President Thomas
E. Corts. "The classics of Greek and Roman thought and culture
are the basis of what we now refer to as the liberal arts."
And the liberal arts provide the core to every Samford undergraduate's
The classics department offers majors in classics, Greek or Latin.
The major provides a basis for graduate study in humanities and
such professional fields as medicine, dentistry, theology and law.
Any student can choose Greek or Latin to satisfy the general language
requirement, and department courses are available as electives.
"In my own experience, the great themes of antiquity were
stirring," said Corts, whose Ph.D. is in classical rhetoric.
"So much of what we encounter day-by-day is common to concepts
of Greek tragedy and in the literature of that era."
The classics department has made itself known in a relatively short
time at Samford. A second full-time professor, Douglas Clapp, was
added. Todd was elected president of the Alabama Association of
Foreign Language Teachers. This fall, the department will host a
meeting of the Southern section of the Classical Association of
the Middle West and South at Samford.
In addition, Todd will lead a group of colleagues studying problem-based
learning at the University of Maastricht, Netherlands, with the
help of a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary
Education [FIPSE] later this year.
The chair also is faculty team leader for development of a program
that will help students examine the relationship between their faith
and vocational choices. Funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment
Inc. of Indianapolis, Ind., this program will also provide opportunities
for students to explore Christian ministry as a vocation and will
help faculty and staff be better able to mentor students in this
There's another compelling reason for studying the classics, says
Corts. They help students know and better understand Jesus Christ
and His times.
"Often, Christians have a view of the New Testament as having
fallen out of the sky, in a neat leather binding, with gold-gilt
edges," he said. "There is a richness in seeking fully
to understand and appreciate the rise of Christianity by taking
stock of the hard realities of Jesus' and His disciples' time-the
cross-currents of culture and custom, the severity of politics in
that day, the constraints of class and status.
"As a Christian university, we should take very seriously
the responsibility to know better Jesus Christ and His times, so
we can better relate Him and His example to our times," Corts