Jackson Bryce

16 December 2022
Jackson Bryce

Jackson Bryce, age 78, died on December 12 in St. Paul. Jack was hired in 1972 to teach Classics at Carleton. He retired in 2012 as the Marjorie Crabb Garbisch Professor of Classical Languages and the Liberal Arts, Emeritus. He was also a senior lecturer in bassoon and chamber music. Jackson had a joyous approach to life. An immensely learned and creative teacher, he was also a gracious, welcoming, and kind colleague who could be counted on to offer a friendly word, erudite discussions of grammar, and witty anecdotes.

In recognition of his gift for teaching, Jackson was earlier named the David and Marian Adams Bryn-Jones Distinguished Teaching Professor of Classical Languages and the Humanities. He helped generations of students to fall in love with Latin and Greek, teaching a full array of classical authors and Roman history from its beginnings to the Byzantine Empire and its interactions with the early Islamic empire. He also taught later Roman and early Christian intellectual history and developed textbooks, especially for Latin prose and medieval Latin. His scholarly work centered on the early Christian writer Lactantius, and he produced the first definitive bibliography of Lactantius, which was also the first bibliography in Classics to be published solely on the internet. 

Both Classics and music were very important to Jackson. In addition to giving bassoon lessons, he wrote texts and a libretto for musical compositions, collaborated to translate Renaissance Latin texts, adapted Gregorian chant liturgical music to fresh English translations, played with the Carleton Orchestra, and directed various ensembles. Jack was deeply committed to the liberal arts and helped to strengthen Carleton by chairing or serving on the Educational Policy Committee (now ECC), the LGBT Council, the Learning and Teaching Center Advisory Committee, and the Advisory Board on Advising.

See a more detailed obituary from Jackson’s family. A memorial service for Jackson will be held on Saturday, June 24 at 11am at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, 901 Portland Ave., St. Paul. A light luncheon will follow in the Parish Hall.

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  • 2022-12-16 11:46:17
    Steve Schier

    Jackson, my former choir director some 40 years ago, was a fine man -- an exemplary human being. We need more like him.

  • 2022-12-16 11:48:58
    Stephanie Cox

    Jackson Bryce was such a gem of a human being. I loved running into him in the Language & Dining Center and catch up on what crazy or fascinating music project he had going on. I sometimes wondered if what he would like when he was sad because he always seemed to be smiling. He has brightened my days many times. And what an amazing musician of course! I will never forget his performance of PDQ Bach. He had a terrific sense of humor. Rest in peace, Jackson. You were missed dearly when you left campus for your retirement. You will be sorely missed. I feel lucky to have known you.

  • 2022-12-16 11:53:32
    Melinda Russell

    This is such a deep loss for all of us, and truly, Carleton itself. Jackson was profoundly caring, kind, and funny. So grateful for his mentorship, musicianship, and collegiality. A truly special man.

  • 2022-12-16 12:32:23
    Rich Keiser

    Jackson was a wonderful, happy fellow. He was quick with his wit and always left others with a smile. He was also a great mentor to me; he offered lots of advice, often in Blue Monday, about preparation of syllabi (take what you have and cut it in half) and managing work-life balance.

  • 2022-12-16 13:29:24
    Gwen Anderson

    Jackson's photo should be next to the definition of 'joie de vivre' in the dictionary of life...especially amazing as he played a double-reed instrument! I feel lucky to have known him and and enjoy music-making with him over the decades.

  • 2022-12-16 15:04:21
    George Shuffelton

    What a loss! Jackson was always so kind and genial. That photo is exactly as I remember him from every encounter -- with a warm smile and a twinkle in his eye. Ave atque vale, Jackson.

  • 2022-12-16 15:08:34
    Colleen Frankhart

    I'm so sad to hear this news. Jackson, his conspiratorial chuckle, and his devilishly twinkling eyes loomed large in my Carleton days and afterward in the Twin Cities. I'll raise a glass of (his absolutely lethal) Fish House Punch to his memory.

  • 2022-12-16 17:14:01
    Jenny Bourne

    Two memories of Jackson:

    - He was an integral part of the Phi Beta Kappa chapter at Carleton for many years, particularly in his role as historian. Jackson never failed to entertain with his dramatic flourishes at the PBK initiations.
    - When I was pregnant with my second son, I was thinking about naming him Jackson and asked Jackson Bryce if the name had served him well. He said it had, and he added that he was the seventh child and his parents couldn't think of any more names so they named him after the family living down the street.

    What a great loss.

    PS My son is named Jackson

  • 2022-12-16 18:20:25
    Janean Hall

    Jackson was an incredible bassoonist with an exceptional sense of humor and intellectual wit. Blessed be the memory of this gifted and talented professor.

  • 2022-12-17 13:52:39
    Adriana Estill

    It's hard to believe that Jackson is gone--he had such a sparkly, joyful way of being in the world. He lived around the corner from me until his retirement move, and I remember fondly his Halloween decorations and his delight in welcoming the young trick-or-treaters (including my son).

  • 2022-12-17 20:24:52
    Kathie Galotti

    What a great guy! Loved his talks at Phi Beta Kappa initiations especially--full of humor and warmth and joy. Farewell, Jackson. You'll be sorely missed.

  • 2022-12-18 09:48:27
    Andy Padula

    I am a better person for having had you in my life, Jackson. It was always a joy to perform alongside you in various ensembles over the years, especially after your move to St Paul. Rest in peace my friend...

  • 2022-12-20 09:29:11
    Christopher Tassava

    I'm so sorry to hear of Prof. Bryce's passing. He was a wonderful man who always had a moment to chat in his wonderfully effusive way. He made Carleton and the world a better place.

  • 2022-12-23 11:59:02
    Stacy Beckwith

    I am also so sorry to hear of Jackson's passing. When I came to Carleton in 1999 I started in the Classics department and stayed until 2009 when we established our Middle Eastern Languages dept. Classics was such a wonderful home during my early years of teaching here and Jackson was a most marvelous mentor. I especially miss the many lunches we had together in such good company all round, and Jackson's sparkling humor and warmth at all times in our office area. Remembering Jackson often and with such gratitude.

  • 2022-12-30 10:25:38
    Nikki Lamberty

    I will never forget working for Jackson for 12 years (1978-1990), and having him as a good family friend since. So many memories, from his first computer, a McIntosh, because it could type music notes for his choir, to Leighton's one year boxelder bug infestation + him madly vacuuming off his screens + keyboard, his always-cluttered workspace, his sweet handmade red cut-out Latin valentine cards, generosity to all, contagious optimism, and of course, unmatched energetic enthusiasm for teaching, music, travel, and life! Cheers to your life well-lived, Jack, and well-remembered, always. Love you.

  • 2022-12-30 17:41:54
    Arjendu Pattanayak

    Jackson Bryce was so talented in so many ways and such a lovely person. I will never forget his PDQ Bach performance, his wit, laugh, smile and warmth even during small fleeting encounters. Vale!

  • 2022-12-30 20:04:59
    Barbara Bryce

    Thank you so much, Carolyn, for such a wonderful piece on my amazing brother, and to all of you for your kind and loving comments. His life will twinkle on in all the people whose lives he touched with his warmth, humor, knowledge, talent, recipes, and even the Fish House Punch. It meant so much to him to know and feel the incredible outpouring love and support before his passing. Bless you all.

  • 2022-12-31 13:46:12
    Pamela Feldman-Savelsberg

    Now a good two weeks have passed since Jackson died. I think of him so fondly during this season, remembering his recommendations for where to hear the best sacred music in St. Paul. As others have said, what a witty, warm, delightful, bright, and talented person. Jackson brought light to everyone he touched, and they are many. Even in 2023, when I close my eyes I will imagine him riding his bicycle across campus, waving a flamboyant hello. Rest well, Jackson.

  • 2022-12-31 17:20:12
    Michael Wittgraf

    I am unbelievably fortunate that I sat next to Jack twice a week at Carleton orchestra rehearsals. Sometimes he would play first bassoon, sometimes I would. He taught me to get the most out of life. From giggling at live performances of Haydn’s music, to relishing the music we played on his mean-tone home pipe organ, to enjoying a post-concert get-together, he never ceased to infuse my life with joy and wonder. I am a better person because of him. Rest easy, my friend.

    • 2023-01-09 16:59:49
      Ted Durant

      Jackson displayed his love for the students, but maybe not the best judgement, by renting his house to a group of us for our senior year.

      Like Mike Wittgraf, I had the pleasure of sitting next to Jackson in orchestra. One concert we had a shortage of hornists, so Jackson played the 2nd horn parts on bassoon. Best fun ever in a horn section.

  • 2023-01-03 15:41:46
    Frank Strong

    Jackson was such a talented musician. I recall one piece in Orchestra that required four bassoons. That was great, although eight would have been better. The four were Jackson, Wittgraf, Prof. Bill Childs, and I.

    What is this Fish House Punch? When Jackson invited me and some friends over to his house for dinner in 1985 or so, this drink was not served. Maybe he previewed the guest list and decided Fish House Punch was not a good idea. When Jackson asked how many guests he should anticipate for dinner, I sheepishly said seven. He responded "Frank, seven is perfect! When my sister was a student at Carleton, and I asked whether she would like to bring some friends to dinner at my house, she could not get the list under 30. That was to be expected, though: she lived in Goodhue!"

    Jackson's kind soul will be greatly missed.

  • 2023-01-03 22:06:10
    Jim McCorkell

    I’m so sorry to hear this news. I never took a class from Jackson, but he would often join us at happy hour at the Cave (during years, 1986-90). He helped me understand how you could be an intellectual and still have a lot of laughs. As others have noted, I always felt better, happier and more connected after seeing him. I’ll miss him greatly.

  • 2023-01-04 00:02:56
    Adrienne Falcon

    Jackson had such a wonderful spirit for life. Perhaps my fondest memory was his welcome to my daughters at Halloween when he dressed up as a wizard and then spooked and charmed us all with his very haunted entryway with so many decorations. His spirit will truly be missed!

  • 2023-01-09 14:21:17
    Clay Taylor

    Jackson was one of a kind. I can still picture him at one of our parties at Ground Burton, standing in front of a stereo speaker blaring the B-52's, beer in hand. I took Roman History from him my senior year. I couldn't make the scheduled date for the final, so Jackson offered to let me take the exam at his kitchen table. He fed me doughnuts and I got an A. He will be missed, but his memories remain strong.

  • 2023-01-09 14:23:57
    Dave Holman

    Jackson taught one of my favorite classes (Classic Novel) and was one of my favorite professors! Such a kind, caring and jolly man! It sounds cliche, but he really did make the past come alive. Simply a wonderful, warm and fantastic human being

  • 2023-01-09 14:29:55
    Ben Gordon

    Sorry to hear this news! Sharing reed book 4 with Jackson for a couple of spring musicals are some of my best Carleton memories.

  • 2023-01-09 14:49:59
    David Kittelstrom

    I have such fond memories of Jackson and of visits to Jackson's house during my years at Carleton. He spread joy, delight, light, and his home was a refuge and a laboratory for burgeoning bohemian culture. Truly great lessons in gentility and taste and enjoying life. I recall a cabernet tasting, and tossing al dente penne with fresh tomatoes and basil (which in the 80s seemed the height of cuisine), with classical music and word play and laughter. For me, was an essential Carleton rite of passage. I'm sad to hear he is gone and I cannot tell him in person.

  • 2023-01-09 15:02:35
    Michelle Herder

    I am so sorry to hear of Jackson Bryce's passing! He looms so large in my memory, both for Latin and for Byzantine history. I learned so much in those courses; I still have the readers he prepared for medieval Latin as treasures of my library. Early in my career I borrowed some assignments and still use variations in them. A wonderful teacher and delightful human being!

  • 2023-01-09 15:23:31
    Carrie Rhode

    My memories of Jackson revolve around the bassoon. While I was not much of a bassoon player, he believed in me. One piece the orchestra did called for a contrabassoon. After many protests on my part, he got me to play it, although I was very afraid of a deep bass note that sounded while the rest of the musicians fell silent. I didn't think I could do it in concert, and I don't think many of the brass players behind me had any faith either. He gave me a twinkle and mouthed "relax" and I hit that sucker. One of my proudest Carleton moments. I also had way too many gin & tonics at his house one night and had to swear off gin for about a decade. LOL Tears in my eyes as I write this. Jackson will be missed.

  • 2023-01-09 15:55:51
    Raymond Bunkofske ‘81

    I have fond memories of Jackson from orchestra rehearsals, lunches in the TR and conversations around campus. He was just one of those larger than life people that are just always supposed to be there and never get old. A true loss to Carleton and those who knew him.

  • 2023-01-09 16:50:04
    David Ocker

    I was a music major when Jack was hired at Carleton and he was welcomed immediately by the students, especially those of us who played woodwinds. Even now, 50 years later, I remember his enthusiasm and positive attitude as a real bright spot of my college years. I also remember that he regularly referred to his instrument not as a bassoon but as a 'baboon'. In fact, when I wrote a piece that I hoped he would play someday, I named it "Baboon Sonata" in his honor.

  • 2023-01-09 17:16:53
    Jane Fuller Killough

    Jack and I started at Carleton in the same year. I truly enjoyed performing with him in the Carleton Pro Musica during my four years there. He was wonderful musician and had a joyful soul. I remember him selecting his reed for a concert should he use "Magnificat" or "Old Faithful"? He will be missed.

  • 2023-01-09 17:44:47
    Steve Ingebritsen

    I loved Jackson's courses at Carleton and visiting him as an old alum. I will treasure the memories. Deepest condolences to his friends and family.

  • 2023-01-09 18:27:13
    Wendy Jerome '73

    Latin with Jackson Bryce was sparkling: he guided us through the naughty bits in Tacitus with a twinkle in his eye and through De Rerum Natura with a tenderness that led us to reverence. His presence among us was and remains an undiminished gift!

  • 2023-01-09 23:29:50
    Catherine Costen Swope '77

    In the summer of 1976, I was on campus with the Uninvited Company. It was Jackson Bryce who assisted a motley crew of us to gain access to the Willis belfry, so we could ring the bells at noon on July 4, 1976. We then went out on the open roof of Willis and took pictures with the campus spread out behind us. The school archives has copies of the pictures. Amazing fun with a wonderful man.

  • 2023-01-10 03:04:46
    Michelle Phifer Styles '86

    Jackson Bryce was truly a Force of Nature, someone who squeezed the pips out of life and choose to take joy.
    The Roman History class I took from him in my senior helped define my writing career in many ways. Because of it, I became the first person to have a historical romance set in the Roman period published by a major publisher in 2006, thus helping to open up the genre to more unusual time periods.
    He made the world a better place for having been in it.

  • 2023-01-10 08:53:51
    Edward Malnar '15

    "Why, you just would not be complete without your hat, no more than I am without a vest!" embodies the joy, humor, and light-hearted propriety that Jackson brought to all our interactions. I only got to know him in his very final year teaching Latin. While those courses stand out in my mind, his encouragement in all things (especially music and curiosity) was essential and inspirational in forming a happy Carleton lifestyle. We will do well to incorporate a little of more of his approach to life in our own, darlings. In memoriam benedictam.

  • 2023-01-10 17:58:24
    Michael Griffin '75

    Jackson was such a kind person and a kind teacher. He nurtured me through elementary Greek and reading Herodotus when I was a naive undergraduate diving into Greek without the preparation in Latin that my classmates enjoyed. I've always remembered his encouragement as I struggled through. He truly modeled the ideals of liberal arts education, and so Carleton was the perfect place for him to spend his career. I was so happy to be able to renew my acquaintance with him as a colleague when I returned as a visiting faculty member in 2006-2008. He was just as I had remembered him as student thirty years earlier.

  • 2023-01-10 19:18:10
    Katie Hodges-Kluck '05

    This makes me so sad. I have so many wonderful memories of Jackson -- who was not just a great prof (even if his Roman history tests kicked my butt!) but also a lovely person.

    One of my favorite memories is when he asked me and my close friends to come have a dinner party at his house while he was out of town over Halloween. We were welcome to make ourselves at home for the evening, as long as one of us promised to dress up in his special costume and give out candy, because otherwise the local kids would miss seeing their neighborhood wizard. 🧙‍♂️

  • 2023-01-11 15:57:51
    Larry Moran '77

    I'm very sorry to hear of Jackson's passing. As many have said, he was a big, happy presence on campus. I never had him for a class but somehow got to know him (probably not an unusual story). Of the many memories of him, two stand out. First, he had a small group of seniors over for dinner a few weeks before graduation. We sat on his porch and had chicken curry, which was wonderful. He served it with a sort of chutney of tomatoes, apples, raisins, and peanuts. I've served curry that way for nearly 45 years and often think of Jackson and that dinner when I do. Second, a few years after we graduated, Jackson called and said he'd be in Minneapolis for a concert and wondered about getting together. Somehow, that turned into coming for dinner and staying the night. I mentioned I had just inherited a piano so, naturally, he showed up with his bassoon and music for bassoon and piano. Debbie ('76) is a good sight reader so the two of them played into the night as I listened. It's a night I still remember with a smile. Jackson was generous, enthusiastic, and a wonderful person to be with. I'll miss him.

  • 2023-01-14 17:52:07
    Jane Hoyt Buckner

    Jackson was the first person who made me feel at home at Carleton- inviting me to join a group at his home to play a wind sextet, fall of my freshman year. His love of music and people was infectious and I still think of him often as I continue to play chamber music in my home with friends. It may not be a coincidence that I have had a soft spot for bassoon players;) He was one of the best examples of how to live a life full of joy and how it brings joy to others that I have seen.

  • 2023-01-15 14:39:08
    Kate Logan Rundquist ‘83

    I was fortunate enough to have encountered Jackson in the orchestra at Carleton and he hosted many chamber music events in his own home. Being in a string quartet with Chris Walker ‘84, Uli Koester ‘84 and Andrew Kao ‘84 was a joy and Jackson one our biggest fans!!
    And then recently he appeared to play again in WSO (Wayzata Symphony Orchestra) of which I have been playing many years. Same characteristic grin and laughter all those years later. I credit him for keeping me involved with music to this day. And Chris and Uli and I now still play but added an Ole grad!!! (Heaven forbid)

  • 2023-01-17 12:06:01
    Catherine James Paglia '74

    At every February Board of Trustees meeting for many years, groups of faculty members would host 1-3 trustees for dinner. Conversation was always wide-ranging and reflected everyone's deep love for Carleton. One evening several years ago, one topic was the need to prepare students for "life after Carleton" by exposing them to various career paths. I expect this issue resonated with some of the Classics professors at the dinner. Jackson was uncharacteristically quiet, but on the walk home, he said to me "well, Carleton students sometimes don't know what they want to do when they graduate, but they always figure it out eventually. We should let that process happen. That's the benefit of a Carleton education." How right he was.

  • 2023-01-21 16:50:12
    Uli Koester '84

    Jackson was my classics professor, comps advisor, cello cheerleader and all-around supporter. He welcomed me with hearty cheer freshman week, and stayed by my side all four years. In the Cave on Friday evenings, Jack hosted a Happy Hour and allowed us to bond as Classics majors and become friends with him. He pulled that friendship through, always smiling, understanding, encouraging. Even at our last reunion, he sat by our side under a dinner tent and delighted in everyone's life. What a gift to the world and to us all. May be there many a blessing on his passing.

  • 2023-01-25 15:20:15
    Benjamin Zivan

    For every thing there is a season, but knowing that doesn't necessarily make it easier.

    Although I enjoyed my high school Latin, I never engaged with Jack in that capacity while at Carleton. Instead, as a tubist in the Carleton Orchestra, I found myself many times seated in his proximity while he played the truly seismic contrabassoon. Our interactions were brief, but the fact that I can envision them to this day is a testament to the joy that Jack brought to even the most mundane interactions.

    Requiescat in pace.

  • 2023-02-12 22:56:25
    Perry Mason

    As a colleague of Jackson, working for many years just down the hall from him, I came to admire his outgoing charm, his wit, his tolerance of deeply abstract philosophical concepts (my field), and his remarkable musical ability. I miss his smile and his positive affirmation of friends, students, and colleagues. I also miss seeing him at orchestra concerts in the Twin Cities.

  • 2023-02-21 09:13:16
    David Harrisville '09

    It’s hard to believe Jackson is no longer with us. Whenever I think back to my time at Carleton, Jackson is one of the people who immediately comes to mind, since I was around him quite a bit. He was such a warm, caring, and thoughtful person, with his vests, his ever-present smile, and rosy cheeks that sometimes reminded me of an erudite Santa Claus. He was always ready with a joke or an encouraging word, and never took himself too seriously.

    I first met him in my freshman year, when I took his course on the history of ancient Rome. I recall that initially he tried to deliver lectures. However, we students were so curious that we kept interrupting him with questions. Jackson was a good sport about it. He soon changed his approach and the entire class turned into essentially a giant Q and A session where we asked all the questions we could think of and Jackson, with his characteristic patience, gave the kind of thoughtful and thought-provoking answers that only someone who has studied a subject their entire life could give.

    I enjoyed the class and the teacher so much that I was inspired to take Latin 101 with Jackson. It was easily one of the most difficult classes I ever took, but with his patience, good humor, and mystifying ability to grade all our work in record time, Jackson made it into one of the most fun classes I ever had. I remember him joking that Latin has so many rules because that is what the gods decreed. He also helped us appreciate a hilarious scene from the movie Life of Brian where a Roman guard corrects the grammar of a would-be rebel.

    Later on, I spent time with Jackson as he wrote recommendation letters for me and gave me advice about graduate school. I learned that he was also a musician (I played piano), and he warned me about how difficult German was when I started taking German classes. He was right, although my experience with Latin helped a lot.

    I’ll miss him dearly.

  • 2023-03-22 13:57:51
    Rebekkah Kerner '99

    I entered Carleton as a freshman who played clarinet but had longed, for years, to learn to play the bassoon. My choice to apply to Carleton was based on a gut feeling as much as anything else, and wow was my gut correct. I was so lucky that my time at Carleton intersected with Jackson's. Learning to play bassoon with his guidance was a highlight of my undergraduate years. He brought such joy and humor to lessons, and was a phenomenal teacher and human. I loved the days he'd be hurrying to or from lessons talking fondly about his "Greeklings", so excited to experience the things he was passionate about through the eyes of his students. Another silly little memory that has held a lot of meaning to me was the time I visited his home with a fellow Carleton bassoonist for an evening of playing and eating, and how we were greeted at the door with a basked full of knitted slippers to choose from to keep us cozy during our visit. As a 20 year old far from home, little gestures like that made an outsized impression on me, and a quarter century later I still aspire to be that person whose home is full of joy, good food, and cozy memories. Thank you, Jackson. You are very much missed and very much remembered.

  • 2023-09-04 21:59:21
    Tom Smith

    I went to The Other Place, and I used to walk across town to join in playing continuo for a Bach cantata. It was a bit chilly, but a Bach cantata is well worth it. Jackson and friends played very well.

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