Maryfest: Celebrating the Career of
Mary Lefkowitz
Paul Properzio

Lynn Sherr (ABC News 20/20), Mary Lefkowitz, Diana chapman
Walsh (Wellesley College President) at Maryfest honoring Dr. Lefowitz's
career at Wellesley College

On Saturday evening, September 10, 2005, legions of former students, colleagues, and friends of Mary Lefkowitz, classics professor at Wellesley College, gathered at the school's faculty club for Maryfest, a grand celebration of Dr. Lefkowitz's teaching and scholarship on the occasion of her retirement.

Dr. Mary Lefkowitz is Professor Emerita of Classical Studies at Wellesley College. A highly regarded classical scholar, she has written extensively on Greek mythology, including her recent book, Greek Gods, Human Lives (2003). She has authored numerous books on women in the ancient world, including one of the standard textbooks, Women's Life in Greece and Rome, and another that integrates her interests in women and myth, Women in Greek Myth (1986), which has been translated into both German and Modem Greek and which I had the privilege of reviewing for Classical World when it was newly published by the John Hopkins University Press. She is co-editor of Black Athena Revisited and author of Not out of Africa, each of which responds to the controversial theory that Greek civilization owes much of its development to the cultures of the Egyptians and other Near Eastern societies.

Having earned her B.A. from Wellesley College in 1957, Dr. Lefkowitz received her Ph.D. in Classical Philology from Radcliffe College (Harvard University) in 1961. Returning to her alma mater in 1959 as instructor of Greek, she was named the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities in 1979. Her many distinctions include fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Onassis foundation, as well as many honorary degrees from prestigious institutions around the world.

Wellesley President, Diana Chapman Walsh, warmly greeted Maryfest guests and praised Lefkowitz for her outstanding contributions to the college and the profession as a teacher and scholar of the classics.

Maryfest host Lynn Sherr (standing) highlights
career of Mary Lefkowitz (seated)

The host for the evening was Lynn Sherr (Wellesley '63), journalist, author and correspondent on ABC News 20/20 who majored in Greek under Mary Lefkowitz. Sherr said she was "hooked" on Greek as soon as she heard legendary professor Barbara McCarthy begin a Greek 101 class reciting the opening lines of Homer's Iliad. Sherr and Lefkowitz have remained good friends since college days. Sherr even says that "Mary told me she knew I wouldn't become an academic, but that I was 'so enthusiastic, who cared?'" Lefkowitz understood how much pleasure Sherr got from it all. ACL members may recall Lynn Sherr's wonderful article, "Why in Heaven's Name Are You Majoring in Greek?," which appeared in Spring 2004 issue of The American Classical League Newsletter 26.3: 5-14.

Lynn Sherr then introduced Martha Nussbaum (Wellesley '68), Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, who, after paying tribute to Mary Lefkowitz as her undergraduate Greek professor, gave a provocative talk on the ethical dilemmas of free speech in scholarly discourse.

Sherr next introduced Dr. Miranda Marvin, professor of Greek and Roman Art and Classics at Wellesley, who spoke of her long and collegial association with Mary Lefkowitz in the Classics Department.

A group of her former Greek students then joined Mary to sing in Greek the "Hymn to Dionysus" from Euripides' Bacchae, lines 73-83, from the student production of the play performed at Wellesley in 1965. The group used original copies of the score for which Jane Snyder (Wellesley '65) wrote the music and on which Mary herself copied the Greek for the students. This was a truly memorable performance.

At the end of the formal part of evening, Lynn Sherr asked audience members to come to the podium and add their special tributes to Mary Lefkowitz. Sherr waved me up. I recalled using her books on women in the ancient world in my classics courses at Drew University in the 70's and 80's, and then I thanked Mary for writing the very useful and readable Women in Greek Myth.

Martha Nussbaum talks on ethical dilemmas of free
speach as Lefkowitz listens

All of the attendees spent the rest of the evening mingling with guests, talking to Mary, and feasting on sumptuous hors d'oeuvres and fine wines. Maryfest was a fabulous tribute to a legendary woman, teacher, and scholar.


Miranda Marvin recalls the teaching and
scholarship of Mary Lefkowitz, her
Classicas Department colleague at
Wellesley College

Mary Lefkowitz delivering the 10th Rouman
Classical Lecture, "Greek Gods, Human Lives,"
October 26, 2005, at the University of
New Hampshire in Durham

On Wednesday evening, October 26, 2005, slightly more than a month after Maryfest, Mary Lefkowitz delivered the 10th John C. Rouman Classical Lecture at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. The lecture, "Greek Gods, Human Lives," was given to a capacity audience in Richards Auditorium, Murkland Hall, on the UNH campus. In the talk, based primarily on her book of the same title published in 2003, Lefkowitz recalled familiar Greek myths and themes from the body of her published works that have shaped classical humanism and the Western tradition.

Created in 1997 by the Christos and Mary Papoutsy Charitable Foundation, this extraordinary series of lectures and events continues to promote and enhance awareness of the Classics in New Hampshire, throughout New England, and beyond. The series has covered a wide range of subjects within Greco-Roman civilization including mythology, literature, history, art, archaeology, and language.

The series has featured lectures by internationally recognized speakers and scholars:

Donald Kyle, Ancient Olympic History - By Flickering Torchlight?, April 14, 2004
Jonathan Shay, Achilles and Odysseus Today: What Homer Can Teach Us About Military Leadership, October 15, 2003
Lynn Sherr, Why in Heaven's Name Are You Majoring in Greek?, April 9, 2003
Victor Hanson, Classical War and Modern Peace, October 28,2002
Stanley Lombardo, Readings from the Iliad and Odyssey, April 24, 2002
Anna Marguerite McCann, Roman Shipwrecks from the Wine-Dark Sea, October 12, 2001
Brunilde Ridgway, Laokoon: The Reading of a Masterpiece, May 3, 2000
Bernard Knox, Always To Be Best: The Competitive Spirit in Ancient Greek Culture,
October 13, 1999
John Silber, Drinking the Sun of Corinth and Reading the Marbles, October 13, 1998.

The series is named after one of the University of New Hampshire's most distinguished scholars and faculty members, Professor Emeritus John C. Rouman. A former Fulbright Scholar in Byzantine Greek to Germany, Dr. Rouman has won the prestigious American Philological Association Award for Excellence in Teaching of Classics and the Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of New Hampshire. He is currently completing the translation and commentary on the History of Nicephorus Bryennius, as well as a modern Greek textbook called Greek: The Living Language. Rouman is also a Contributing Editor of The American Classical League Newsletter.

Mary Lefkowitz has graciously agreed to allow me to publish her 2005 Rouman Classical Lecture, Greek Gods, Human Lives, in an upcoming issue of the ACL Newsletter.

Rouman Classical Lecture Series advisory board members and guests in a group photo prior to Dr. Lefkowitz's lecture. (Top row, left to right) Dr. Douglas Marshall, St. Paul's School; Dr. Richard Desrosiers, UNH; Dr. Scott Smith, UNH; Dr. Paul Properzio, Boston Latin Academy; (second row, left to right) Dr. Stephen Brunet, UNH; Dr. Stephen Trzaskoma, UNH; Dr. Richard Clairmont, UNH; (front row, left to right) Dr. John Rouman; Dr. Ann Weaver Hart, UNH President; Dr. Mary Lefkowitz, guest speaker; Dr. Marilyn Hoskin, UNH CLA Dean; Mary Papoutsy, Advisory Board Co-Chair.


Paul Properzio is Editor of The American Classical League Newsletter.

HCS readers may wish to view other articles and releases in our permanent, extensive archives at the URL

2000 © Hellenic Communication Service, L.L.C. All Rights Reserved.