The American School of Classical Studies at Athens is pleased to announce a gift from William T. (Rob) Loomis, President of the School's Trustees, to name a bedroom in the renovated Student Center in honor of his college professor, Sterling Dow.
Sterling Dow (photo courtesy of the Harvard Gazette)
Loomis recalls: "Sterling Dow was my undergraduate teacher at Harvard, and he was the one who encouraged (i.e., "told") me to go first to the School's Summer Session after my sophomore year, and then to its Regular Program immediately after college. And I was not the only one: he sent more than 50 students to the School, including a number (Alan Boegehold, John Camp, Hunter Lewis, Rob Loomis, Jim McCredie, and Steve Tracy) who later took on leadership roles at the School. He had a unique, unforgettable way of asking questions and methodically working his way through to solutions, and he continued to be my mentor for the next 30 years."
Sterling Dow (at right) with Eugene Vanderpool in Greece (circa 1960s)
Loomis continues: "I hope that when students walk into the Sterling Dow Room and read about his many discoveries (e.g., the kleroterion machine for allotting Athenian jurors, and his deduction, on historical grounds, that the Linear B tablets were inscribed in an early form of Greek, a deduction that was confirmed when the tablets were finally deciphered in 1953), they will be inspired to make their own contributions to our knowledge of ancient Greece."
Left: Sterling Dow in his Widener Library office Right: Sterling Dow tests squeeze paper on the terrace in front of the Stoa of Attalos (circa 1966)
Loomis also emphasizes the importance of memorializing historic figures of the School like Sterling Dow: "The renovation of the Student Center offers many wonderful opportunities to honor and commemorate some of the giants of the School's past—scholars and teachers whose personalities and minds are still vivid for people of my generation but who obviously will not be so well known to future students. I hope, however, that when those students see photographs and brief biographies of these pioneers, they will see themselves as the latest chapter in a long and distinguished tradition."
About William T. Loomis
Rob Loomis is the Managing Partner of Loomis Associates, a family business. Earlier, he was a trusts and estates lawyer in Boston and a visiting professor of Classics and Ancient History at Union College and the University of Michigan. He has published two books (The Spartan War Fund and Wages, Welfare Costs and Inflation in Classical Athens) and a number of articles on topics in Greek and Roman history, law, economics, epigraphy, numismatics, and textual criticism. He holds A.B., J.D., and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard. An alumnus of the School (Summer Session 1965, Regular Member 1967–1968, Associate Member 1988–1990), he has been a Trustee since 1975 and an ex officio Overseer of the Gennadius Library since 2015. He served as Secretary (1979–2017) and Acting President (2015–2017) of the Trustees before being elected President in 2017.
About Sterling Dow
Sterling Dow (back row, far right in dark suit) with the School’s 1934 Agora Excavations staff, including such giants as Lucy Talcott, T. Leslie Shear, Dorothy Burr [Thompson], Piet de Jong, Alison Frantz, Eugene Vanderpool, and Homer Thompson
Sterling Dow was one of the leading Hellenists of the 20th century. Born November 19, 1903, in Portland, Maine, he attended Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard College, where he received an A.B. in Philosophy in 1925. After a year as a Fiske Scholar at Trinity College in Cambridge University, Dow received his A.M. from Harvard in 1928. In 1931, he married Elizabeth Sanderson (Libby) Flagg and moved to Greece. A Guggenheim Fellowship and various Harvard awards allowed Dow to spend five years (1931–1936) in Athens, where he did archaeological fieldwork at the American School's Agora Excavations and wrote his dissertation. He worked closely with the great German epigrapher, Johannes Kirchner, and developed a new technique for making portable copies (called "squeezes") of inscriptions. Aided by his wife Libby, Dow assembled what became the world's largest private collection of squeezes, which provided a wealth of material for his own research and later for his students' dissertations.
Sterling Dow in Attica (circa 1930s)
In 1936, he received his Ph.D. from Harvard and taught there until his retirement in 1970. During his 34-year tenure at Harvard, he was a Tutor and Instructor (1936–1941), Associate Professor (1941–1946), and Professor of History and Greek (1946–1948). In 1949, he was appointed John E. Hudson Professor of Archaeology.
During World War II, Dow took a leave of absence from Harvard to serve as a member of the Office of Strategic Services (U.S. wartime intelligence agency) in Cairo. After the war, he turned his attention to encouraging and improving the teaching of Classics, especially in secondary schools. He founded Teachers of Classics in New England, instigated a revised edition of Smyth's Greek Grammar, and provided the illustrations for Chase & Phillips' New Introduction to Greek. Co-founder of the scholarly journal Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, the popular magazine Archaeology, and the American Research Center in Egypt, he also served as president of the Archaeological Institute of America.
In the words of his colleague Zeph Stewart, "Dow could be said to have had three spiritual homes: the south coast of Maine, the American School at Athens, and Widener Library. During his lifetime, he was seldom far from them, whether in body or in spirit. He died on 9 January 1995, lucid in mind and independent to the end." (Photo courtesy of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation)
Dow was known primarily for his work in Greek epigraphy and history, but his scholarly range was remarkable. During his career, he wrote five books and more than 150 articles (including in the School's journal, Hesperia) and reviews covering subjects from the Aegean Bronze Age to Greek Religion to Hellenistic Chronology. Dow's Festschrift, Studies Presented to Sterling Dow on his Eightieth Birthday (Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Monograph 10 ), contains his biography, publications, and articles by 45 of his students, colleagues, and friends.
Sterling Dow (middle) with two of his former students, Hunter Lewis (left) and James McCredie (far right), at Dow’s 80th birthday party at the Tavern Club in Boston (1984)
Dow was a popular and devoted teacher who encouraged and stimulated students, making them active participants in the scholarly journey. This passion for education prompted him to return to Athens often: in addition to teaching at College Year in Athens and the Aegean Institute, he was the Annual Professor (now Whitehead Distinguished Scholar) at the American School in 1966–1967. In 1964, he was Sather Professor at the University of California, Berkeley (which awarded him an honorary LL.D.), and after his retirement from Harvard he served as Distinguished Professor of Greek Civilization at Boston College (1970–1977), Walker-Ames Lecturer at the University of Washington (1972), and Blegen Distinguished Research Professor at Vassar College (1977–1978).
Sources: Emily Vermeule, "Sterling Dow, 1903–1995," American Journal of Archaeology 99 (1995) 729–30; Donald H. Fleming, Mason Hammond, Emily D. T. Vermeule, and Zeph Stewart, "Sterling Dow: Faculty of Arts and Sciences – Memorial Minute," Harvard Gazette (May 31, 2001) 21; William T. Loomis and Stephen V. Tracy, "The Sterling Dow Archive: Publications, Unfinished Scholarly Work, and Epigraphical Squeezes," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 106 (2011) 339–359.
The Sterling Dow Papers
Dow’s children, Pixie (middle) and Sterling III (third from right), in Athens (circa 1934; photo courtesy of Saul and Gladys Weinberg Photographic Collection)
The American School's Archives is proud to house a small collection of Sterling Dow's papers, including classroom and field trip notebooks, photograph albums, three catalogues of inscriptions from his time at the School in the 1930s, more than twenty articles, and notes and drafts written (probably) in 1966–1967, when he was the Annual Professor at the School. The collection also includes a notebook kept by Dow's wife Libby in the 1930s, a catalogue of James H. Oliver's Agora inscriptions, and a binder labeled "Mount Olympus Thessaly—Greece Notes and Correspondence."
About the Student Center Campaign
The Student Center Campaign was launched in October 2018 to raise funds for renovating and expanding the three aging buildings that serve as the intellectual and residential heart of the American School: Loring Hall, the Annex, and West House. This transformative project will increase housing capacity, reduce energy consumption, add state-of-the-art features and technology, and bring the buildings up to the latest technical standards—all while preserving the complex’s historical appearance. The Student Center will remain the place where members of the community gather for meals, tea, ouzo hour, holiday celebrations, and lectures—a source of lifelong professional and personal relationships that characterize the collegial and intellectually vibrant atmosphere of the School. This modernized setting will enhance that experience and will meet the needs of the School community well into the future.
Support the Campaign
The goal of the Student Center campaign is $9.4 million, inclusive of a maintenance endowment. Thanks to generous supporters like Rob Loomis, $6.7 million has been raised to date. The new Student Center is expected to open in June 2021.
To learn more about how you can support this historic initiative, please contact Nancy Savaides, Director of Stewardship and Engagement, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-454-6810. Naming opportunities for a variety of spaces in the Student Center are still available. Donors can choose from a wide range of gift levels to name a room or area in honor of themselves, an American School scholar, or a family member, friend, or group. Please click the links below to view the nameable spaces and options that remain:
Student Center Construction Photo Gallery
Click this link to view more photographs of the work in progress.
Unless otherwise noted, all photos are from the American School's Digital Collections.