Leon Fitts’ introduction to the first Philip N. Lockhart lecture

Vergil wrote two works that celebrate the countryside, and one of these, the Georgics, in which the poet uses the land and its cycles to discuss Roman politics, is the expertise of our honoree tonight. A poem about the land was a natural choice for Professor Lockhart’s scholarship since he grew up on a farm half way between Punxsutawney and Indiana, PA, where he helped farm until he graduated from high school Geography, which Cicero suggested long ago had importance to the growth of Rome, likewise may have played its role here. Punxsutawney, home of a meteorological oracle, who is also named Phil, perhaps imbued the Professor with a questioning mind needed for academic pursuits, while the hard work of farming gave him perseverance and practical application of knowledge. Armed with these natural strengths, following high school, he earned a degree in 1950 from the University of Pennsylvania in a less labor intensive subject, English. From Penn, Professor Lockhart went to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill where he switched gears and earned a Masters degree in Comparative Literature– perhaps the sun did not shine of English that day? But this was not the only fateful decision made by Phil; he left Chapel Hill for Ezel, Kentucky, to teach in a Presbyterian mission school (1951-52). There, as often he has told many, he developed a love of teaching, an inordinate love of students, of the Classics, and of Calvinism, traits that would play major roles in his future career. To pursue Classics, in 1952 Phil went to Yale where he earned his PhD in 1959, with time at Missouri and Penn as an “A.B.D.” professor in between. It was at Yale that Vergil captured his mind, but where Betty his wife, a fellow graduate student and a member of the same Vergil seminar, conquered his heart. They were married when Phil got his degree and continued teaching at Penn until 1963.

Another sea change was made in that year. A former student, Stan Nodder who was teaching Classics at Dickinson, asked Phil to join him in the department and invigorate Classics in Carlisle. Though Phil has never said so, perhaps the mystique found in the close relationship with his students in Kentucky, the challenge of teaching Latin and Greek under difficult circumstances and the chance to engage undergraduates tugged at his mind; he accepted the invitation and moved to Carlisle where he taught from 1963 until his retirement in1990. The choice seems predestined in hind sight and the journey to Carlisle one guided as much by fate as Aeneas= trip to Italy in the Aeneid. Phil and Stan brought Classics to the forefront at Dickinson; they revamped the curriculum and a third member to the department..

In the process, Phil became AUncle Phil@ and the beloved mentor of countless legions. His office always was much like a physician’s clinic—students lined the walls waiting their turn. Unlike the clinic, once in, one’s time with Phil was extensive. Usually the problems discussed had little to do with Classics, commonly it was fatherly advise given for a variety of issues mundane and spiritual. And if anyone lacked a major going in, they came out convinced that Classics had all the answers to life. Phil was unabashedly chauvinistic in that regard. His approach to all his classes and his students is best summarized by his own words: “we tend to teach as we have ourselves been taught,” in other words the totality of one’s experience is crucial to success, and in Phil’s case that meant teaching with a strong moral conviction. And the response of students to this doctrine is well illustrated by the comments of a recent graduate: He is “a brilliant person and inspiring teacher, who brought much more to the table. He was interested in the development of the whole person; the principles of faith, love and fun were ingrained in his curriculum.” During his career at the college, Phil was chosen the most inspiring teacher by seniors four times, a record never matched again. Upon his retirement, nearly 300 former students came back of campus to read citations of appreciation of his teaching. Obviously, all the passions conceived in Ezel Kentucky found fruition at Dickinson.

Of course, Calvin was not forgotten when he got to Carlisle. New Testament Greek entered the curriculum, the Gospel of John (according to Phil) became a standard course, and several independent studies on the history of Christianity or similar issues filled his time. So a lecture series on the subject of Christianity is most apropos to honor one who helped and continues to help countless students facing hard issues in their spiritual life and who sits in church with his Hebrew, Greek and Latin versions of the scriptures ready to check his minister’s theology. As series commences, perhaps Vergil himself may indirectly supply words of encouragement; speaking of bees as a metaphor for a poem, he wrote, “it is a small-scale work; but the glory will not be small-scale…if the God of learning listens when invoked.” Since Phil has spent his life honoring learning and God, the future of the series looks bright.

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