The "Department of Greek and Latin" was originally formed in 1918 by merging the previously separated departments dedicated to the study of those languages. Classics and ancient literatures, however, had by that point already been part of Catholic University's curriculum for nearly three decades.
The formal study of classical philology at the Catholic University of America began in 1891 with the appointment of the Rev. Daniel Quinn (1861-1918) as Professor of Greek.1 A graduate of Mt. St. Mary's College, Maryland (A.B., 1883; A.M., 1886), Fr. Quinn had spent two years at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (1887-89) where his fellow students included Carl Darling Buck, Gonzalez Lodge, and other promising young classicists.2 As it had done for other newly-hired faculty members, the University then sent Quinn back to Europe for his doctorate. He spent the 1891-92 academic year at the University of Berlin, and the following academic year at the American School and the University of Athens. In 1893 he received his Ph.D. from the University of Athens and returned to the United States. At Catholic University, having joined a faculty not yet divided into separate schools, the Rev. Dr. Quinn taught for two academic years (1893-95) under the rubric of Biblical Science. His courses focused on the New Testament, Biblical archaeology, and classical Greek philology.
When the Schools of Philosophy and Social Science were created in 1895 as entities separate from the School of Divinity, Dr. Quinn joined the newly formed Faculty of Philosophy. This faculty was at first divided into the Departments of Philosophy, Letters, Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Technology, and Biological Sciences.
Dr. Quinn entered the Department of Letters, whose founding members, in addition to himself, were the Rev. Prof. Henry Hyvernat (Oriental Languages) and Prof. Charles Warren Stoddard (English).
Although trained as a Hellenist, Dr. Quinn also taught Classical Latin, first mentioned as a separate field of study at Catholic University in the Announcements for 1895-96. Courses for that year included Greek Philology, Latin Philology, Greek Archaeology, Roman Archaeology, History of Greek Literature, History of Latin Literature, and Greek and Latin Epigraphy. An overt philhellene, Quinn's zeal was manifested in his spelling habits (Keramics, Mykenaean, Sophokles) and in his Academy of Hellenic Studies, which students were eligible to join upon completion of a thesis of four thousand words, written in Greek or Latin. In 1895-96, Academy discussions (to take place in Greek!) centered on Aristophanes' Acharnians and Sophocles' Antigone, and were reported in the quarterly in-house journal Deltion. Quinn also busied himself during this and the following year with articles on the American School of Classical Studies in Athens (Catholic University Bulletin 1 , 65-72), education in Greece (United States Bureau of Education, Report of the Commissioner for Education for 1896-97, ch. 8, pp. 267-347), and "the duty of higher education in our times" (Journal of Social Science ).
The following academic year (1896-97) saw the appointment of George Melville Bolling (1871-1963) as Instructor in Comparative Philology. Born into an established Virginia family, he converted to Catholicism and attended Loyola College in Baltimore (A.B., 1891). In 1896 he received his Ph.D. in Classics from The Johns Hopkins University. His dissertation, The Participle in Hesiod, was written under the supervision of Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve and published in The Catholic University Bulletin 3 (1897), 421-71. In addition to comparative philology, Bolling also taught Sanskrit and Latin.3
Dissatisfied with the University's level of support for Greek studies, Fr. Quinn resigned at the end of 1897 and returned to Athens.4 He spent two further years at the American School (1900-02) and in 1902 was appointed Rector of the Leonteion, a secondary school established for Catholics by Pope Leo XIII.
In 1906 Fr. Quinn returned to his birthplace of Yellow Springs, Ohio, and became pastor of St. Paul's Church and professor at Antioch College. In 1908 he published Helladian Vistas, a collection of essays on Greece that went into a second edition the following year. His courses for the remainder of the academic year 1897-98 were taken over by Dr. Bolling, who seems not to have continued the work of the Hellenic Academy.
The following academic year (1898-99), the Faculty of Philosophy was reorganized into five separate schools. The Department of Letters became the School of Letters, and took its place alongside the Schools of Philosophy and the Physical, Biological, and Social Sciences. (It is essentially this division that is marked in the inscription over the entrance to McMahon Hall: SCIENCE - PHILOSOPHY - LETTERS.) The new School of Letters was divided into six departments, three of which were staffed by classicists. These were Comparative Philology and Sanskrit, Latin Language and Literature, and Greek Language and Literature. The non-classical departments in the School of Letters were Semitic and Egyptian Literatures, Keltic Languages and Literature, and English Language and Literature. George Bolling headed Comparative Philology and Sanskrit and taught in the other two classical departments as well. He received help in 1899 with the appointment of John Joseph Dunn (A.B. Yale, 1895; Ph.D. Yale, 1898) as Instructor in Latin. Dunn was not a classicist, however, and in 1900 he migrated to the University's Department of Keltic Languages and Literature. The same year the Rev. John Damen Maguire (1868-1916) was hired as Assistant Professor of Latin Language and Literature.5 A graduate of La Salle College (A.B., 1886) he received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1900 with a dissertation on word order in the speeches of Livy.6
Between 1900 and 1905, Bolling headed the Department of Greek Language and Literature as Associate Professor and also ran the Department of Comparative Philology and Sanskrit as Assistant Professor. Maguire headed the Department of Latin Language and Literature, first as Assistant, and then from 1902 as Associate Professor of Latin. It was during these years that the first doctoral degrees were awarded in Greek and Latin. In 1904 the Department of Greek Language and Literature awarded the Ph.D. to the Rev. Michael Matthias F. Oswald, C.S.C. (A.B. Notre Dame, 1898) whose dissertation, The Use of the Prepositions in Apollonius Rhodius, Compared with their Use in Homer, was published by the Notre Dame University Press in 1904. The same year the Rev. James Joseph Trahey, C.S.C. (AB Notre Dame, 1899) received a Ph.D. for his De Nominibus et Verbis Ennodi Hieronymique inter se Collatis, which compared the diction of Jerome and Ennodius of Pavia. This work was also published by Notre Dame University Press in 1904 under the title De Sermone Ennodiano Hieronymi Sermone in Comparationem Adhibito. Both men returned to Notre Dame, whose faculty they joined.
In 1905, after some lobbying by his supporters and intimations that he might return to Johns Hopkins, Dr. Bolling was named to a newly endowed position, the Margaret H. Gardiner Chair of Greek and Sanskrit, and so became full professor.7 The following year the Department of Sanskrit was separated from the Department of Comparative Philology, with Bolling heading both. Two more dissertations were written during this period, also by members of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. In 1906 (at the age of 20) the Rev. Jean-Baptiste Étienne DeLaunay, C.S.C. (Bachelier-ès-Lettres, Sorbonne, 1902) completed a dissertation on Tertullian and his Apologetics, published in 1914 by the University of Notre Dame Press. In 1910 the Rev. Charles Louis Dorémus, C.S.C. (A.B., Notre Dame, 1906) produced a dissertation on Word Formation in the De Statu Animae of Claudianus Mamertus, which apparently was not published. Both men joined the faculty of Notre Dame upon graduation.
In 1913 George Bolling left CUA to take up a fellowship at Johns Hopkins University, which he left in 1914 for Ohio State.8 At his departure, the Department of Sanskrit was eliminated; Comparative Philology was taken over by the Rev. James Aloysius Geary (A.B. Holy Cross, 1903) of the Department of Keltic Language and Literature. To fill the vacancy in Greek, Dr. John Bartholomew O'Connor (1864-1918) joined the university in the fall of 1913. A graduate of Rochester University (A.B., 1897), he had taught at numerous secondary schools and studied at the American School at Athens (1901-02), where he would have met Fr. Quinn. In 1908 he received his Ph.D. from Princeton University. His dissertation, Chapters in the History of Actors and Acting in Ancient Greece, was published by the University of Chicago Press. Between 1908 and 1913 he taught at Adelphi University in Brooklyn. Under him and Maguire eight more dissertations were produced, including, in 1917, the first two by women: Consolations of Death in Ancient Greek Literature by Sr. Mary Evaristus Moran, S.C. (A.B. University of London, 1910; A.M. Dalhousie University, 1915) and The Nurse in Greek Life by Sr. Mary Rosaria Gorman, S.C. (A.B., A.M. Catholic Sisters College, CUA, 1914, 1915). Both women belonged to the Sisters of Charity of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
At Fr. Maguire's death in 1916 no successor was appointed to head the Latin department. Dr. O'Connor then died in October, 1918, leaving both classical departments without a professor. Instruction in Latin and Greek was continued by the Rev. Patrick Aloysius Collis (S.T.B. St. Charles Seminary, 1912; A.M. CUA, 1912) and the Rev. Thomas Joseph McGourty (A.B., A.M. Mt. St. Marys College, 1899, 1901), both of whom had recently completed their doctorates at the University. It was at this point, as he himself recalls in his Memoirs of the Catholic University of America, 1918-1960 (Boston, 1962), that Dr. Roy Joseph Deferrari (1890-1969) was hired, in December 1918, to take over the departments of Greek and of Latin, "which were then officially made one" (p. 147). Full implementation of the merger appears to have taken place gradually, but a hint of what was to come appears in "Greek and Latin at the University," Catholic University Bulletin 26 (1920), 61-64. In this description of the new department and its curriculum, Deferrari wrote, "The University aims to give a thorough training in the methods of careful study, and to have ultimately in its conspectus all that is best from Homer through the floruit of ancient Christian literature."
—Prof. William E. Klingshirn
1 Who Was Who in America, vol. 1 (Chicago, 1896), 1004.
2 Louis E. Lord, A History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (Cambridge, Mass., 1947), 72, 388.
3 Further details of his life and career can be found in the Biographical Dictionary of North American Classicists, ed. Ward W. Briggs, Jr. (Westport, Conn., 1994), 51-52.
4 Peter E. Hogan, The Catholic University of America, 1896-1903: The Rectorship of Thomas J. Conaty, (Washington, DC, 1949), 104-7.
5 A brief biography can be found in The American Catholic Who's Who, ed. G. P. Curtis (St. Louis, 1911), 386-87.
6 De Verborum in Livianis Orationibus Collocatione.
7 Colman J. Barry, The Catholic University of America, 1903-1909: The Rectorship of Denis J. O'Connell (Washington, DC, 1950), 167-68.
8 Gildersleeve's letter of recommendation for him can be found in The Letters of Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, ed. Ward W. Briggs, Jr. (Baltimore and London, 1987), 315-16.