Why are Wabash students often attracted to Classical studies? I’ve been thinking about this very question as I continue my interviews with the Classics majors of the Class of 2010. Today, I write about Denver Wade, who as a student doubled-majored in Classics and in history. For him, the answer to this question involved both the different fields Classics encompasses and the quality of the Classics faculty here at the college.
Wade had always had a penchant for history, and he viewed Classics as its own type of historical study. Furthermore, Wade had taken German in high school and proceeded to study Latin here at Wabash to fulfill his language requirement because, “It’s different.” After sitting in Dr. Hartnett’s class for a while, Wade felt drawn in by his professor’s energy and enthusiasm for his field. Also, as Wade progressed in his knowledge of the Classical languages, he began to think of translating as a “historical adventure.” It struck him just how many languages trace their roots back to Latin and its literature, and he found it thrilling to read works in that original form.
Fortunately for him, Wade was not alone on this “adventure.” As I have written in the two previous blogs, he became close friends with fellow Classicists Mitch Brown and Seth Tichenor. In fact, Brown and Wade were the only two Latin majors in their class. They often met up and did their homework together, challenging each other on the themes of their studies, and pushing each other intellectually. Wade made the point that they had to justify their ideas to one another, which created a very special academic environment among the undergraduates. It helped, of course, that the College added the Classics library in their senior year, which Wade and his classmates viewed as their own “little clubhouse.”
In his junior year, Wade took his Classics adventure overseas, studying at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome (CENTRO for short). Here he made connection which, following his studies at Wabash, led him down a unique path. While studying in Italy, Wade had met a team of Italians who played American football. Based on this experience, Wade moved to Sicily and coached a team of the League of American Football for two years. While there, his division was the highest ranked in Italy. According to Wade, his experiences in Sicily were similar to those described in the John Grisham novel, Playing for Pizza. In fact, the team mentioned in that book, the Panthers, were apparently rivals of Wade’s own team. I was struck by how far-reaching an effect Wade’s Classical studies had on his immediate adventures after Wabash.
After returning to the United States, Wade decided he wanted to return to education, so he
joined a selective program at the University of Mississippi, where he earned his Master’s and then was placed into a high-need school district. Wade now teaches English and Latin and coaches weight-lifting at North Panola High School in Mississippi. He really seems to enjoy his work. He mentioned to me that teaching Latin is fun because it has not traditionally been taught there. Wade has even had the privilege to take his class on field trips to the Classics Department at the University of Mississippi. Overall, though, Wade enjoys his work because he can tell he is making a difference for his students, for whom education has not always been well-provided.
Finally, some of the greatest benefits to Wade of his Classical education are the unique relationships he has built. First, Wade told me that, busy as the three of them are, Tichenor and Brown remain two of his very best friends. Furthermore, they continue to inspire him with their own accomplishments. Second, Wade, like so many other Classicists, feels a great admiration for the Classics faculty here at Wabash. Wade can recall how the professors here “blew him out of the water” with their passion and knowledge of their field. Wade even met up with Professors Joe and Leslie Day and Professor Kubiak over this past winter break and discussed some of current goings-on of the College and the department. These kinds of intimate relationships with one’s professors and peers are definitely a unique aspect of the Wabash man’s adventures in Classics. What an exciting adventure it can be!