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 Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Alumna makes a gift to Classics
courtesy of CU-Boulder Classics Department

Amid CU-Boulder’s storied progress in leading-edge fields such as biotech and energy, the university’s Classics department, incorporating the study of ancient Greek and Latin, garners fewer headlines—and fewer of the research grants and private gifts that could help the department thrive.

Yet while Mary McClanahan (’67 AS) has had a successful 30-year career in scientific research, she credits her humanities education at CU-Boulder, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in classical languages and a master’s in Latin, for her career success. “The classics are the very basis and foundation of our civilization, of how we think about things,” she said.

To ensure the study of classics at CU-Boulder will endure and thrive, McClanahan has made a substantial estate commitment to establish the Mary McClanahan Endowed Fund in Classics. When this planned bequest is realized, the gift will support graduate fellowships and faculty resources within the department in perpetuity.

Though the precise amount and allocation is yet to be determined—it will be at the department chair’s discretion—this transformative gift commitment could, for example, support a single year’s tuition for each of the department’s PhD candidates (currently six).

“It’s crucial that we stay in touch with the culture and the origins of Western civilization,” said Peter Hunt, chair of the Classics department. “This gift will demonstrably enhance and accelerate the progress of CU-Boulder classics graduate students and, in turn, strength this vital field.”

McClanahan has studied Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, and German but spent much of her career working in yet another language, the computer language FORTRAN. “Languages are languages are languages,” she said about connections between her education and her work for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, where she was branch chief in charge of systems programming. “When you’re writing computer programs, you’re just writing in another language.”

But McClanahan says she would not have been able to afford her CU-Boulder education without scholarships—as it was, she working fulltime during vacations and part time during the semesters. “Education is the most important thing there is,” she said. And by announcing her estate gift during her lifetime, McClanahan can feel secure in bolstering classics at CU-Boulder without impeding her current household budget, yet provide scholars with promise for the future, today.

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