50 Years of Classics

Classics students, faculty and staff holding wooden shields and pipes to mimic an ancient Greek battle

On Saturday, April 22, 2017, UNC Asheville’s Classics Department made its own mark on history by celebrating 50 years since its establishment as a full department in 1967.

The day began with the dedication of The Dorothy Dvorsky-Rohner Ancient Garden outside Whitesides Hall, the Classics Department’s academic home. Close family and friends, faculty, staff, students and alumni all gathered to remember longtime Associate Professor of Classics and Art History Dorothy Dvorsky-Rohner and honor her professional and personal accomplishments with a plaque dedication ceremony and a planting of ancient herbs and flowers.

Dedication of The Dorothy Dvorsky-Rohner Ancient Garden outside Whitesides HallA devoted teacher of Greek language and culture, Dvorsky-Rohner was instrumental in developing UNC Asheville’s first courses in art history and archaeology, and in establishing a chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America in Western North Carolina. The Ancient Garden on the rooftop of Whitesides Hall was first conceptualized and planted by the students in her first-year experience course titled "Ancient Gardens," more than a decade ago. Dvorsky-Rohner retired in 2011 and passed away in 2015.

UNC Asheville's Classics Department is the only degree-granting program for Classics in Western North Carolina. "The Classics Department has been an engaged and, we believe, vital presence on the UNC Asheville campus for the past 50 years. We are proud to be part of an unbroken tradition of training our fine students in the interdisciplinary foundations of the principal civilizations that inform our Western heritage, and we look forward to the next fifty years," said Associate Professor and Classics Department Chair Lora Holland. 

Junior Classics major Lisa Piacesi said she especially enjoys the supportive nature of the department and the opportunities to learn outside the classroom.

“Everybody cares about each other. Everybody wants to take care of you and make sure that everything goes exactly how you want it to. They’re there for you and very understanding. And they’re all very knowledgeable. You never have that ‘bad’ teacher. You’re always learning something new,” she said.

Piacesi is looking forward to her Italian archeology study abroad trip with Associate Professor Lora Holland and Lecturer Laurel Taylor this summer, and as a resident assistant, she’s also excited about “UNC Athens to Rome,” the Living Learning Community for Classics students starting in fall 2017.

Saturday's celebration continued with lunch and a lecture on “Digging Archaeology in Italy” by Holland, and mock hoplite fighting in “Recreating the Greek Battle.” Led by Assistant Professor Jake Butera, participants used wooden “shields” and pieces of pipes as “spears” to get a taste of what ancient Greek soldiers went through in battle.

Saturday’s gathering brought back fond memories for Classics alumna Alex Rising Moon ’05. Now a speech language pathologist, her background in Greek and Latin informs her work with nonverbal children with severe autism on a daily basis.

“It’s funny that I studied linguistics, and now I primarily work with nonverbal kids,” she laughed. “But what I studied here, it translates. It gave me an appreciation of looking at things from a new perspective. It’s not about learning a language; it’s about communication. And what I learned early on here at UNCA is that communication can be in any language. What I learned here is with me everyday.”

To learn more about UNC Asheville’s Classics Department, visit classics.unca.edu.