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Studies in Greek epigraphy and history in honor of Stefen V. Tracy

Gary Reger
Francis X. Ryan
Timothy Francis Winters

Stephen Tracy as teacher

Timothy F. Winters

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1I first heard of Prof. Tracy in 1978. I was just beginning the process of investigating graduate schools, and a former student of his, Prudence Hoffman, informed me that he was simply the finest professor she knew. That thought was reinforced by Joel Ireland, and again by Marie Bahr-Volk, both of whom had worked with Prof. Tracy at Ohio State, and were faculty members at the University of Arizona. They all knew that I was deeply interested in Greek and they encouraged me to work with him. They assured me that I would be glad that I had gone to The Ohio State University, and they were all correct. It is no exaggeration to say that Prof. Tracy has been a constant source of inspiration and of support, an excellent friend, and in short, the strongest influence in my career. It is thus an honor to have the opportunity to say a few brief words about him by way of introduction to this volume.

2It may come as a surprise to those who know him under other circumstances when I say that Prof. Tracy’s classroom demeanor could appear abrupt. He was certainly demanding, and he made no apologies for his high standards. While other courses were definitely harder than undergraduate work, Prof. Tracy’s courses made us fully aware that we were no longer undergraduates. He did not treat graduate study as a more difficult extension of undergraduate study, but rather as something substantially different, and he treated his graduate students accordingly. We were not in class to translate, but to discuss the literature we had read. Furthermore, and perhaps even more importantly, he did not care to know what other scholars’ work we had read. He assumed that we would acquire a level of comfort with secondary literature outside of class assignments as a part of our responsibilities as graduate students. Rather, his constant mantra in classes was, “What do you think about this?” (I was and am grateful, as an aside, that he never asked us how a piece of writing made us feel.) We were always challenged to think for ourselves and present our own ideas about a passage, and he never allowed sloppy thought to find purchase in his classroom. Any assertion had better be backed up with appropriate arguments and substantial evidence. Taking a class with Prof. Tracy gave new meaning to the word “preparation”.

3As graduate students, we came to appreciate that exacting, careful mind-set by which Prof. Tracy presents an unsurpassed model for doing scholarship. Meticulous and patient, he proceeds with caution and never overstates his case. The depth of his learning informs every page of his writing, and his appreciation of language allows him to present his thoughts in a thoroughly compelling manner. His work on identifying hands in Greek inscriptions is nothing short of remarkable; it represents an astonishing number of years spent in that “tedious hard work” of acquiring an education, and that is precisely what he did: he educated himself in the ways of stone cutters. Yet this feat, once thought impossible, was for Prof. Tracy only a means to an end. It was a tool that would allow scholars the ability to understand better the chronology of the ancient Mediterranean, and the material culture left us by the Greeks and Romans. And that brings me to another point about Prof. Tracy that must be made here. Although most scholars know him as an epigraphist, he is above all a classicist. He has published on Greek and Roman writers from Catullus to Homer as well as epigraphy, and here again, he has provided a model for his students.

4Prof. Tracy’s long association with The American School of Classical Studies in Athens is a clear indicator of his approach to our discipline. For although he understands well that the depth necessary for excellence in scholarship demands a somewhat narrow perspective, that perspective finds value only when placed against the backdrop of a larger canvas. He is equally at home teaching with a text of Homer or on a Bronze Age site. The ability to be comfortable with both material culture and literary evidence is absolutely necessary for anyone who would come to as full an understanding of the ancient world as possible, and it is a testament to his capacities in that regard that Prof. Tracy was chosen as the Director of the American School. As he has often been pointed out, the Americans do not have, as all other foreign schools in Greece do, an archaeological institute. We have a school of Classical Studies. It was Prof. Tracy who changed the trajectory of my career and those of many others, I am sure, with a simple question: have you thought about applying to the American School? His ability to see that hunger for a well-rounded picture of the ancient world and to nurture it with support in various ways is another talent that Prof. Tracy exercises. I can only begin to imagine how many words of encouragement he has spoken to students, and how many letters of recommendation he has written through the years.

5Prof. Tracy does not limit his concern for his students to the classroom. His study of antiquity was grafted onto a fundamentally caring personality. This was much in evidence in Athens in 1981-82 when Prof. Tracy was quick to offer his support in some very difficult days. In the many years since, our friendship has deepened through conversations about music, sport, good food and drink, and of course the ancient world. I have appreciated his friendship greatly over the years, and I hope that this brief note will serve as a firm acknowledgement of that appreciation. In short, Prof. Tracy is a man who has understood the notion of scholarship in its broadest sense as service that is comprised of depth of learning, willingness to share one’s knowledge eagerly with others, and a fundamental attitude of basic human concern. I am proud to call him my Doktorvater.

6Upon returning a draft of my dissertation, Prof. Tracy referred to me as “a terse s.o.b.”, an epithet that I took as a compliment. I will here stay true to that assessment and say to him simply: Prof. Tracy, on behalf of all those whose lives you have touched in so many ways, thank you for the gift of yourself.

© Ausonius Éditions, 2010

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