In the early years of Carleton’s history, proficiency in Latin and Greek were required of all Carleton students (although young women were allowed to substitute French for Greek), For the Congregational clergymen who founded the college, Greek was essential not only as a language of classical literature, but also (and perhaps primarily) as the original language of the New Testament. This emphasis on training in classical languages as a preparation for the reading and appreciating of Scripture is reflected in the Carleton College Seal.
In the twentieth century, however, the emphasis shifted firmly toward acquiring the ability to read classical authors, both in the original and in translation. In the middle of the twentieth century, the Classics Department was home to the academic world’s only endowed chair in biography, Dr. Christopher Mierow, and offered courses in linguistics and Sanskrit in addition to courses in Latin and Greek.
Throughout the department’s history, its faculty have compiled a distinguished record of scholarship, teaching, and service to the college (with Horace Goodhue serving as dean of the college for fifteen years and David Porter serving as acting president).
From 1868 to 1870, Latin and Greek were taught at Carleton by Rev. Charles Seccomb (1817-1900), who also served as the college’s financial agent from 1867 to 1870.
Horace Goodhue served Carleton College as a Professor of Greek from 1870 to 1906. In 1891, Professor Goodhue was chosen as Dean of the College, but continued to teach in the Department of Greek and Latin, which received departmental status that same year. In their history of Carleton College, Leal Headley and Merrill Jarchow write: “In a period when the Greek language and the heroes of it literature assumed major proportions in the curriculum, Professor Goodhue was the acknowledged leader of the faculty.”
After Professor Goodhue’s retirement in 1906, Greek was taught at Carleton by George B. Hussey (1906-1907) and Margaret Holman (1908-1910).
Alice L. Armsby (1853-1933) received her B.A. from Oberlin College in 1876 and served Carleton as an Instructor of Latin from 1876 to 1885, when she married Professor A.H. Pearson of the Carleton Chemistry Department.
Louisa Holman Richardson served Carleton as an Instructor and Professor of Latin from 1885 to 1904. She received her B.A. (1883) and Ph.D. (1901) from Boston University. In 1890, Dr. Richardson was awarded the first European Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), which she used to study at Newnham College, Cambridge. After leaving Carleton in 1904, she married Everett O. Fisk and became the vice president and treasurer of the Fisk Teachers Agency (1915-1955). In 1922 she was elected to the Board of Trustees of Boston University. At Carleton she also served as “acting lady principal” from 1891 to 1902.
Lucia E. Danforth, ’88 (1865-1944) served Carleton as an Instructor of Latin from 1891 to 1904. She received her B.L. (1888), B.A. (1896) and M.A. (1904) from Carleton, and her Ph.D. (1909) from Illinois Wesleyan University. During her time on the faculty at Carleton, she also served as preceptress of the Academy. Upon her resignation from Carleton in 1904, the entire student body signed a petition asking her to stay. A letter of recommendation written for Miss Danforth in 1904, signed by President Emeritus Strong, Dean Goodhue and several members of the faculty, concludes: “Her loyal devotion to Carleton, her unstinted toil and sacrifice to it, her sunny, genial spirit, her Christian character and life, have been a daily help and inspiration to us all, and have left their impress upon hundreds of minds and upon the institution.”
In the half-decade after the departures of Dr. Richardson and Miss Danforth in 1904, Latin was taught at Carleton by James T. Fairchild (1903-1906) and Frederick J. Fairbank (1906-1910).
Alice Armsby Pearson, Louisa Holman Richardson and Lucia E. Danforth were all original members of The Monday Club, a women’s study club founded in the early 1890s by Margaret Evans, the dean of women at Carleton, The club also included among its early members Isabella Watson, Mrs. Goodhue, Mrs. Strong (the wife of Carleton’s first president), and Mrs. Emily Skinner, who endowed Skinner Chapel. From 1894 to 1897, the women of The Monday Club devoted their weekly meetings to the reading and discussion of Greek tragedy.
Margaret Evans wrote in 1895: “Women realize, too, that the classic past has lessons of value preserved only in its literature, that although the other things of the classic age have passed away, the spiritual forces there embodied still have power in all human life.” In her minutes from a meeting in March 1897, the club secretary reported an experience which may be familiar to many students: “The plot…as found in Iphigeneia at Aulis was first discussed; that is, the members were closely questioned on the subject, but as most of them had forgotten to look the matter up, the examination would have been an ignominious failure had not the leader been ready to fully answer all the questions asked, which made a very interesting, if one-sided, exercise.” The Monday Club survives to this day as The Margaret Evans Huntington Club.
Arthur Leslie Keith served Carleton as a Professor of Greek and Latin from 1910 to 1922. He received his B.A. (1898) and M.A. (1908) from the University of Nebraska and his Ph.D. (1910) from the University of Chicago. He is the author of Simile and Metaphor in Greek Poetry from Homer to Aeschylus (Menasha, WI: George Banta Publishing Co., 1914). According to a recommendation (1909) from the head of the Department of Latin at the University of Chicago: “He has no personal defects.”
Herbert Pierrepont Houghton (1880-1964) was a Professor of Classics at Carleton from 1923 to 1950. Dr. Houghton came to Carleton from Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where he served as president from 1918 to 1920. He received his B.A. (1901) and M.A. (1904) from Amherst College and his Ph.D. (1907) from the Johns Hopkins University. At Carleton, Dr. Houghton taught courses in Greek, linguistics , Anglo-Saxon and Sanskrit. He was also an expert on the Basque language. His publications include: The Moral Significance of Animals as Indicated in Greek Proverbs (Amherst: Carpenter and Morehouse, 1915); The Coptic Verb, Bohairic Dialect (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1959) and Introduction to the Basque Language, Labourdin Dialect (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1961).
Charles Nelson Smiley (1873-1943) was a Professor of Classics at Carleton from 1926 to 1940. He received his B.A. (1897) from Drury College, his M.A. (1903) from Harvard University and his Ph.D. (1905) from the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Smiley served as the president of the Classical Association of the Midwest and South (CAMWS) in 1917. His publications include Horace: His Poetry and Philosophy (New York: Kings Crown Press, 1945). His wife, Bertha Shutts Smiley (also pictured), a pianist, was a member of the music faculty at Carleton.
Charles Christopher Mierow (1883-1961) was the Ambrose White Vernon Professor of Biography at Carleton from 1934 to 1953. Dr, Mierow was trained as a classicist, having received his B.A. (1905), M.A. (1906) and Ph.D. (1908) from Princeton University. He also held an LL.D. (1927) from University of Colorado, an L.H.D (1933) from University of Denver, and an honorary Ed.D. (1934) from Colorado College. He was also an ordained Congregational clergyman.
Before coming to Carleton, Dr. Mierow served as dean and acting president (1923-1925) and as president (1925-1934) of Colorado College in Colorado Springs. At Carleton he held the first (and perhaps only) chair of biography in the academic world, endowed by the Ambrose White Vernon Foundation “to foster the study of great men in a free, humanistic manner.” His courses at Carleton included: “Representative Americans,” “Representative Men of Antiquity,” and “Representative Personalities of the Middle Ages.” He also served as president of CAMWS in 1936.
Dr. Mierow was a popular teacher at Carleton, and in 1951 was given the unprecedented honor of a plaque presented by the student body, engraved “with deepest affection for your friendship and inspirational leadership.” His publications include: St. Jerome: The Sage of Bethlehem (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co., 1959) and The Hallowed Flame (Evanston: Principia Press of Illinois, 1955), which includes brief biographies for a general audience.
As of June 2000, four copies of Dr. Mierow’s biography of St. Jerome were available through Alibris.com
Charles Sanford Rayment (1907-1991) received his B.A. (1928) from Harvard University and his M.A. (1937) and Ph.D. (1941) from the University of Michigan. In his first fifteen years at Carleton (1947 to 1962), Dr. Rayment was the only permanent member of the department and was responsible for the steady growth of the classics at Carleton which led to the appointment of David Porter in 1962.
In a typical year in the period between 1947 and 1962, Dr. Rayment taught six to seven Latin courses, three to four Greek courses, a course in Greek literature in translation and a number of independent studies. He also managed to publish extensively in Classical Weekly and Classical Bulletin.
- Headley, Leal A. and Jarchow, Merrill E. Carleton: The First Century. Northfield, Minnesota: Carleton College, 1966.
- Carleton College Archives