April 06, 2017

After their work at the Thebes dig, Clare Brogan '12, Paul Brazinski '11 and Michael Furman '11 launched careers in classics

By Marilyn Lewis

Clare Brogan's '12's high school Latin classes in Bridgewater, N.J., are some 5,000 miles away from the ancient city of Thebes in Boeotia, Greece, where, for six summers, Brogan and other Bucknell scholars excavated an archaeological site dating back to 1,200 B.C.

Excavation work concluded last summer because the permit reached its maximum limit, according to Greek laws. But the excitement of toiling in the trenches is vivid for Brogan's students.

"I bring real-world archaeology into the classroom for them, and they get very excited about it," Brogan says. "I tell them about living in Greece, working with our Greek laborers and digging in the dirt. "I try to play that up in my classroom and make sure they know there's more out there to being a Latin scholar. It doesn't have to be all sitting in the library reading Cicero."

Brogan, a classics major, worked all six summers at the dig, first as a novice excavator, then as manager of the dig's storehouse, devising a system to receive, wash, photograph, weigh, catalog and store the unearthed pottery, metal and bone fragments. Eventually, she supervised excavation teams, managing a diverse cast of English- and Greek-speaking workers.

She manages a classroom ("one of the hardest things in the world"), redirecting students' unruly behavior and engaging and motivating them, and draws constantly on skills acquired at the dig.

The Thebes project catalyzed professional lives for other Bucknell scholars, too, among them classics major Paul Brazinski '11 . He took Professor Kevin Daly's Greek Civilization course his first year and asked, "How do I do this forever?" when the term ended.

Catching the classics bug took him by surprise: "I grew up in a big sports family in Basking Ridge, N.J. I think everyone would have thought I would become a football coach and teacher." Brazinski says he's grateful for a liberal arts school that encouraged him to explore.

Daly and Professor Stephanie Larson, both members of Bucknell's Department of Classics & Ancient Mediterranean Studies, continue mentoring Brazinski as he writes a thesis for his Ph.D. in church history at Catholic University of America. Brazinski joined the Thebes dig in summer 2011, then earned an M.A. in archaeology at the University of Cambridge. He'd worked on other digs but it was the Thebes credential, and the autonomy and responsibility he experienced there, that helped him win admission to Cambridge, he believes.

One more Bucknellian transformed by his work at Thebes is Michael Furman '11. His love of classics began when he visited campus in 2007, his senior year at North Thurston High School in Lacey, Wash.

He wanted to be a chemical engineer or chemist. But after wandering into a lecture by Daly on Bucknell's archaeology and classics program, he envisioned a thrilling new direction. "I have to come to Bucknell and work with Kevin," he decided.

He earned a B.A. in classics from Bucknell, joined the Thebes dig in 2011 and, like Brogan, returned every season, eventually becoming a supervisor. He has just completed his Ph.D. in ancient history at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.

The Thebes experience gave his scholarship a valuable edge, Furman says: "A lot of people who work on Thebes and Boeotia have never been to either. We were the first foreign excavation team to work within the city limits of Thebes, ever. There aren't many non-Greek people who [study] Thebes who can say they've excavated in Thebes."

Furman, Larson and Daly are in close touch. "I leaned on them heavily for advice on what [graduate] schools would be a good fit for me." They helped him select and apply for a Ph.D. program, too, and read and helped edit his thesis.

From Brogan's New Jersey Latin classes to Brazinski's and Furman's budding academic careers, the relationships and lessons from Thebes continue to reverberate and grow.