Monmouth College Preparing to Host Eta Sigma Phi National Classics Conference, March 24-26


Thanks in part to a Monmouth College student, a national academic conference is coming this weekend to the Midwest.

While participating virtually in last year’s national conference for Eta Sigma Phi, a collegiate honor society for the study of classics, a question was raised about which school would host the 2023 event, which organizers planned to hold in person.

“One of our students, Megan Dailey said, ‘We should do it,'” said classics professor Bob Simmons. “Monmouth has hosted the conference three times before. This institution is a known commodity in the classics world.”

“I thought, ‘Why not Monmouth?'” said Dailey, a sophomore classics, art and educational studies major from Pendleton, Indiana. “If no one else wants to, we can probably put this together.”

As a result of that “can-do” attitude, Monmouth will serve as host of Eta Sigma Phi’s national conference for the fourth time. The event will be held on campus March 24-26.

“There are 12 students enrolled in a classics leadership course who’ve been working on the conference, plus a couple dozen other students who will pitch in,” said Simmons. “The students are feeling just as much heat as I am to get this event ready.”

Agreed Dailey: “It’s a large undertaking. There are so many moving parts and problems to address, including things like who will drive the shuttles, and arranging for the food and hotels.”

Although the meeting is returning to an in-person format for the first time since 2019, Simmons said the turnout will be a little below what it enjoyed during pre-pandemic days.

“We’re still in a post-pandemic time, so attendance is not back yet to where it was before COVID, but we’re expecting around 50 to attend, representing around 15 or 20 schools,” he said. “The spotlight event is a slightly scaled-down version of our Classics Day.”

Even with the scaling down, Simmons said it will still be “a huge operation,” with more than 40 stations, including demonstrations of military techniques and a fashion show of clothing from the ancient world.

Other events

* Monmouth art professor Brian Baugh will discuss ancient styles of painting. “The statues and marble figures that we see today with no paint would’ve been painted in their day,” said Simmons. “Many efforts to recreate those paint jobs make them look garish, like they were painted by a third grader. But when the proper technique and mix of paint is used, the recreations look much better.”

* Former Hewes Library Director Rick Sayre will tell “a really compelling story of the history of the Canopus Stone,” said Simmons, “including its brushes with death and its disappearance.” The stone, of which Monmouth College received one of three casts in the late 1800s, bears an inscription of a record of a great assembly of priests held March 7, 238 BCE, at Canopus, Egypt. “It’s always a treat to hear Rick speak about it,” said Simmons. “He gives a very dramatic encapsulation of the history of this stone.”

* College archivist Lynn Daw has been working on projects with two students, Grace Passaglia ’23 of St. Charles, Illinois, and Dylan Prentiss ’23 of Colorado Springs, Colorado, who’ve been setting up displays in Hewes Library for the meeting. Passaglia has been working on a display featuring Bernice Fox, a long-time Monmouth classics and English faculty member. Prentiss is displaying archival materials of the national Eta Sigma Phi organization, as Monmouth is the holder of its archives. Both students will address the assembly about their work.

* Students from Rockford University in Rockford, Illinois, will present a staged reading of an adaptation of the ancient play Medea, which “is about an immigrant experience in a new place,” said Simmons. “What the Rockford students will be reading is a United States immigration adaptation of the play.”

* Conference attendees will dine at a cena classica, which is an ancient-style meal using only ingredients that would have been available in the ancient world.

* Other conference events include a classics-themed quiz bowl, presentations of select student papers and a contest in Greek and Latin declamation.

The conference helps fulfill the ideals from Eta Sigma Phi’s constitution, which states that the purposes of the society include “to develop and promote interest in classical study among the students of colleges and universities” and “to promote closer fraternal relationship among students who are interested in classical study.”

***Courtesy of Barry McNamara, Monmouth College***

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