Prof. Philip Lockhart was the very model of a colleague to someone newly arrived at Dickinson and teaching in another department. It had been some years since I had used classical Latin, but he welcomed me to sit in on the Lucretius class he taught during my first year at the college. Lucretius can be made the basis for all kinds of remarks on the history of philosophy and science, yet Phil recognized that he had students whose interests did not lie in how Latin accommodated Greek philosophy. What he did with the text was point out plenty of homely wisdom in a poet whose observations may appropriately decorate academic buildings and who also observed the world around him. Lucretius’ words from two thousand years before were brought home to the hearts and minds of the Dickinson community. Not everyone was always immaculately prepared to translate in class; the discussion, nevertheless, was lively. As an instructor, I had never sat through a semester’s worth of someone’s else’s classes and been so open-mouthed in admiration.
Part of the secret of Phil’s appeal to students was his interest in their lives outside the classroom. He followed their careers with enthusiasm and recommendations about avenues to pursue, from matters as general as kind of career to those as particular as job openings recently learned about. He could have said, ‘Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto.’ Students did their best in an atmosphere where the instructor cared about every aspect of their lives. His encouragement of consideration of issues sub specie aeternitatis brought past, present, and future together in minds and imaginations.
Having been part of a faculty at a university where not even Latin has been taught for almost a century, I can vouch for the civilizing effects of classics. One speaks of ‘liberal arts’ and ‘liberal education’, but it is hard to produce students liberally educated without the benefits of the languages in which the liberal arts were first discussed. While Classics at Dickinson was not the creation of Phil Lockhart, nor did he maintain it single-handedly, he was a custodian for whom the authors whose works he discussed would have been grateful. The warmth of Phil’s welcome continued even after his initial stroke, and I only wish some of my students recognized that some of what they learn in my classroom is a gift from Magister Docentium (the master of those who teach).