UMD Department of Classics awarded $500K NIAF Pellegri Grant

The grant will expand classical studies and focus on historical ties between the U.S. capital and the Roman Empire.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A $500,000 grant from the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) will fund new research at the University of Maryland on the legacy of ancient Rome as reflected in the architecture and art in the United States’ capital and in the nation’s system of governance.

The foundation awarded the $500,000 NIAF Ernest L. Pellegri Grant, named in honor of a foundation donor, to the university’s Department of Classics in the College of Arts and Humanities (ARHU) to expand the study of Latin language and ancient Roman culture, as well as the opportunities for students to study abroad and conduct research in the United States and Italy.

This is the largest single grant awarded to an educational institution in the foundation’s history, said Anita Bevacqua McBride, chair of NIAF’s Education and Scholarship Committee. “Through this partnership we will help connect the ancient remains of the Roman past found in Italy to the formation of our American identity,” she said.

Maryland was selected from a pool of 25 American and Italian universities because of the project’s compatibility with NIAF’s mission, the expertise of the faculty and the impact on students and the larger university community. The principal investigators for the grant are Jorge Bravo, Lillian Doherty and Judith P. Hallett from the Department of Classics.

“This generous grant exemplifies the expertise of classics faculty and allows us to capitalize on our proximity to Washington, D.C.,” said ARHU Dean Bonnie Thornton Dill. “This partnership is a logical extension and complement to the ways the faculty blend scholarship, teaching and community engagement to strengthen the study of Latin and promote its relevance to our modern lives.”

Examples of this influence include the classical design of the Capitol building, the mural in its dome painted by Constantino Brumidi showing classical gods surrounding George Washington as he helped create America, and a semi-nude sculpture of Washington that was created for—but not installed in—the Rotunda.

Most of the five-year grant will fund scholarships for undergraduate student education abroad, alternate spring breaks and summer research, and provide graduate student fellowships to support research by master’s-level candidates in classics and related fields of study.

“Many of our alumni are highly regarded teachers of Latin and classical culture,” said Lillian Doherty, chair of the Department of Classics. “Through our students the legacy of Roman culture will be passed on to future generations.”

Public Lecture on Grace Macurdy

Monday, March 10, 4:00-5:30 pm, Room 9204, CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue: “Grace Harriet Macurdy (1866-1946): Pioneering Feminist Scholar.” Barbara F. McManus, Professor of Classics Emerita, The College of New Rochelle, will deliver the spring 2014 Women Writing Women’s Lives Dorothy O. Helly Works-in-Progress lecture. Grace Macurdy, Professor of Greek at Vassar College from 1893 to 1937, rose from a poverty-stricken childhood to become the first woman to win international recognition as a professional classicist and the first to focus her scholarship on ancient women. This illustrated presentation will explore the challenges of writing a biography of a woman who is relatively little known today but whose engrossing life story illuminates significant issues such as the opening of higher education to women, the erosion of gender and class barriers in the professions, the overcoming of disability, the delicate balancing act between personal and professional life required of women, the fissures and strains in female solidarity, and the sometimes vicious back-room battles among academics.

The program is free and open to the public; co-sponsors are the Leon Levy Center for Biography and CUNY Graduate Center’s PhD Programs in History and English, MA Program in Liberal Studies, Center for the Study of Women and Society, and Center for the Humanities. A printable flyer is available here.