The recent discussion about dropping requirements for Latin and Greek in the classics department brought this memory of mine to mind.

In the spring of 1969, at the end of my sophomore year, I had to choose a major. Knowing I was going into medicine, I wanted to get the broadest possible humanistic education I could before entering medical school. I therefore decided to major in classics. 

I went to talk to the head of the department, Professor Frank Bourne ’36 *41. As an older Southern gentleman, Professor Bourne was graciousness itself. After inviting me to sit down he asked me what he could do for me. I told him that I wanted to enter the classics department for my undergraduate major. He perked right up with interest and then said to me, “That’s wonderful, Henry. Now just how much Latin and Greek preparation have you had?”

I blushed and stammered out that, having gone to public school, I had not studied any Latin or Greek but was hoping to do so as a student in his department. Professor Bourne didn’t miss a beat. He smiled broadly at me and replied, “Well, that’s fine, Henry. We will be delighted to take you into the department — as long as you can acquire the equivalent of two to three years of both Latin and Greek over the summer.”

I majored in philosophy instead and never looked back.

Editor’s note: Read more about classics in our feature article [7].