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About the Lecturer

The following is a biography of Alden Smith of Baylor University at Monmouth College. Prof. Smith is the 15th Bernice L. Fox Classics Lecturer at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois. Click here and here for photographs of Prof. Smith.

Alden Smith is a native of Pennsylvania, born in the coal-mining region of the state, and then raised in a small town called New Hope, just north of Philadelphia. He went to public high school, where he did not study much because he spent far too much of his time as a mule skinner on the Delaware Canal (n.b. not a mule flayer, but a mule skinner). Then, because his grandfather’s childhood friend was the dean of a small school in Pennsylvania called Dickinson College, he somehow or other wiggled his way through the gates of higher education's first protiron.

At Dickinson, Smith tried to take French, the language he had kind of studied in high school. Rebuffed either because he made it clear that he didn’t like poodles or because French was over-enrolled (probably really the latter), he took Latin on the recommendation of a couple of (quite drunken) fraternity brothers. Latin was love at first sight reading.

Studying under an extraordinary educator, Dr. Philip Lockhart, Smith soon took Greek, also at Dickinson, with the inimitable Dr. Leon Fitts, who, along with Prof. Sienkewicz, is now on the Board of Trustees of Eta Sigma Phi. At Dickinson, Smith was Eta Sigma Phi chapter president, and after his first year in the M.A. program at the University of Vermont, Smith won (what is now called) the Brent M. Froberg Scholarship to the American School for Classical Studies in Greece. This was his second trip to Europe, for, as a junior, he had studied at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome.

Then came the "dark years". After graduating from Vermont with the M.A. Smith decided to risk it all and try for the PhD in Classics. Naively, he thought it would be fun. In some ways, indeed it was fun, but it was a kind of fun beset with many challenges, some of which still give him indigestion even to think about. After being tossed about on the waves of graduate seminars and what are called comprehensive qualifying exams (a title that makes them sound nicer than they really are), Smith sludged his way through his dissertation on Ovid, while teaching at Rutgers University in New Jersey. After he finished his dissertation—ugh! nine years ago, now—Rutgers hired him full-time. But Rutgers was not to be a permanent post for him. Baylor University hired him away in 1994, in part because they actually have a real live bear on campus, with whom Smith has gone jogging at 4 a.m. Rutgers’ mascot was a scarlet knight who, wearing all that red armor, simply could not keep up with Smith on the morning runs.

Baylor was a great move. Smith has written most of his stuff at Baylor, and has greatly enjoyed teaching Baylor students. As do his students, he likes poetry and prose, and art and archaeology: in short, just about the whole ancient world. And that’s what he’s written on, including topics such as Greek Epigraphy, Ovid’s Epistuale Ex Ponto, as well as the Heroides and the Metamorphoses, Pindar’s Olympian 14, Horace’s Odes, Virgil’s Aeneid, Pompeian Painting, the Athenian Empire, and even Cicero. His book, available from the Univ. of Michigan press, is entitled. Poetic Allusion and Poetic Embrace in Ovid and Virgil. (If you order it before midnight tonight, you’ll also get...). Smith’s current research focuses on Pompeian wall painting and Latin poetry. You’re welcome to visit his pagina domestica at