About Us

about 1Index


The study of Classics forms an integral part of  New Brunswick’s cultural heritage and was first instituted by the founding fathers of this province in order to ensure that “…education would play from the beginning an important part in the development of New Brunswick society.”  Consequently, the Department of Classics and Ancient History has a long and distinguished history at the University of New Brunswick, as the oldest discipline and department on campus. The foundation for the study of Classics was established in 1785 when loyalists petitioned for a college in Fredericton.  As a result of their endeavours an Academy was founded in 1787 which provided a stepping stone towards the establishment of an institution for higher education in the province, with the Greek and Latin languages forming the core of the program. 

about 2
The Academy

After the establishment of the College of New Brunswick in 1820, later renamed King’s College in 1829, professor of Classics Rev. James Somerville expanded the program by including Greek and Latin literature, history, rhetoric and literary criticism. Admission into the College was based on entry exams in the Latin and Greek languages and the ability to write an essay topic in both English and Latin!  During the brief eight year period of its existence, the College of New Brunswick awarded its first and only degrees in 1828, one in Divinity and two in Classics! Among the numerous contributions of Classics to UNB during this early period is the establishment of the first Encaenia (graduation ceremony) and the creation of the Latin formulae for the granting of degrees by Dr. Edwin Jacob, a tradition which in part is still preserved today at UNB graduation ceremonies.

about 3

In 1860 King’s College became the University of New Brunswick and the first local classicist, George M. Campbell, a Cambridge graduate was hired as a professor of Classics.  He was the first to introduce educational reforms established by the famous humanistic and educational reformer Pestalozzi that brought about changes in the study of ancient languages.  By the 1890’s the Classics department reached its golden age, with course offerings in ancient history and classical civilization that followed more progressive 20th century attitudes toward the study of antiquity.  The success of the program was reflected in the high enrollment numbers and the granting of the first thesis based MA degree in Classics, in 1899.

The latter 20th and 21st centuries

With the dawn of a new century Classics entered a difficult period in its long history at UNB. In 1929 a young Cambridge graduate, Robert Cattley, was hired to revive the program which he succeeded in doing by introducing major reforms to the curriculum and new courses in social history and illustrated lectures; the course on Greek temples was the first archaeology course offered by the Department. 

about 4
UNB ca.1939; pastel by Glendon Morgan
(BSc 1949; MSc 1951)

Enrollment increased dramatically after WW II (a phenomenon witnessed in general throughout North America) and in 1949 classics-in-translation courses were introduced for the first time with enormous success.  In response to high enrollments new faculty members were hired and as a result, in 1954 Mary Ella Milham joined the department as the first woman and faculty member to hold a doctoral degree.  In 1957 ancient history was added to the program and Leonard Smith was hired as the first historian/archaeologist who had studied under the famous British archaeologist Sir Ian Richmond and excavated in Anemurium, Turkey. 

For the 20th century the mid 1960’s was no doubt the Golden Age for Classics.  Robert Cattley, as head of the department of Classics and a distinguished academic who was the last member of the faculty to teach in academic robes, left a legacy at UNB.   He was the first and “most distinguished and memorable” official university orator who wrote the Latin formulae for graduations until his retirement in 1968, and among the persons honoured were senators John F. Kennedy (1957) and Robert Kennedy (1967).  This custom still continues today and sets UNB apart as perhaps one of the few remaining universities in North America to grant degrees in Latin.


Into the 21st century

In the latter part of the 20th century and into the 21st century a new era in Classics emerged with a shift towards the study of material culture. The introduction of new courses in myth, religion and civilization, and the establishment of intersession courses in Rome, Greece and Turkey in the 1990’s, brought about a heightened interest in classical archaeology and enhanced course offerings in the classical languages.  As a result of these activities, a classical archaeologist was hired in 2005, the MA in Classics was revised to include an archaeology component, and in 2008 a joint undergraduate BA program in archaeology was developed in conjunction with the Department of Anthropology.


As the 19th century drew to a close women were finally allowed to enroll in a degree granting program and distinguish themselves at a time when the university was a ‘men’s club.’  Mary Tibbits was the first to enroll, in 1886, after having placed second in her Greek and Latin entrance exams, while a decade later Edna M. White, “one of Henry Bridges most brilliant students”, won first place in a North American wide competition in New Testament Greek.  After a distinguished teaching career in the United States, Edna returned to New Brunswick and endowed the Edna White prizes in Classics. Her achievement was soon followed by that of Sarah Thompson (1899) and Edna B. Bell (1910), recipients of the first thesis based MA degrees ever awarded in Classics at UNB. 

about 6
Edna M. White                                                                                                         Mary M. Winslow

Included in this list of ‘firsts’ is Mary M. Winslow who was the first black woman to graduate from UNB with a BA and the Montgomery-Campbell Prize for excellence in Classics, while Louise Thompson, who received her BA in French and Latin in 1937,  a few decades later became the first female to join the UNB faculty.   However, despite this active involvement of women in Classics at the student level, it was not until 1946 that the first female instructor, Carol Hopkins Taylor (BA Queens), was hired to teach in the Department of Classics.  Almost a decade later the Department made history by appointing the first woman and Ph.D. recipient, Mary Ella Milham, to the ranks of full-time faculty.  Dr. Milham upon retirement in 1987 was awarded the prestigious title of professor emerita for her distinguished career in teaching, research and publications, and active community involvement.


The conferring of MA degrees at UNB began in the 19th century (1830) and the department of Classics was among the first to award such degrees.  As common at other Canadian universities at the time, these degrees were awarded based on work done at the BA level and on the performance of certain “prescribed exercises,” a practice observed at British universities, while “attendance on lectures [was] not generally required”.  The famous Henry S. Bridges, later professor and Chair of the department of Classics at UNB was the recipient of such an MA in 1871.  By the 1890s a more organized ‘graduate program’ was established and the first theses-based MA’s were conferred:  History 1892, Biology 1896, Botany and Classics 1899.  In Classics the first such MA was presented to Sarah Thompson in 1899 for her thesis on Homer and Vergil and the second in 1910 to Edna B. Bell for her work on Vergil and the Aeneid.  Almost two decades later in 1937, Thomas Saunders and Joseph Charles Dougherty completed their MA degrees under Robert Cattley’s supervision.

about 7
Sarah Thompson                                                                                                       Edna B. Bell

It was not until 1960, however, that graduate courses were introduced into the Classics curriculum.  As a result of these revisions by 1961 the first post-war students to graduate from this newly established program were J. Robert Smith, with an M.A. in Latin, and Hugh J. Flemming, with an MA in Greek.  In the four decades or so that followed, the graduate program in Classics continued to produce sporadically one or two graduate students at a time.  With the revision and expansion of the MA program in 2006 to include an archaeology component, however,  the MA in Classics has flourished. Student numbers have increased dramatically, and now include local, national and international candidates.

about 8
Thomas Saunders                                                                                                      Hugh Flemming


Public outreach and community involvement were always an integral part of the Classics Department, and close ties with the community took on multiple forms.  In the early years, Classics professors were responsible for organizing, overseeing, instructing, and coordinating workshops for teachers in Latin at the secondary school level; overseeing high school Latin exams; and marking provincial matriculation examinations in Latin.  Beyond the teaching and administrative demands of faculty members at the turn of the 19th century, there was also a keen interest in theatrical performances.  Tyng Raymond, Eric Smethurst and Robert Cattley were actively involved in high quality theatre productions, a trend which lasted for almost a period of 60 years.  Raymond was the first director to allow women to act in dramatic performances while Cattley was the most prolific and active of all, by producing numerous plays (at one point two a year!) as director of the UNB Drama Society, and becoming the first chairman of the New Brunswick Regional Drama Festival. His last theatre production was staged in 1961.

about 9
Director: R. Cattley                                                                                                

Student participation in these extracurricular activities was encouraged, while additional special events were organized such as the elaborate Roman Banquets staged by Cattley for his classes in 1935 and by Mary Ella Milham in 1955 who also organized the student Classics Club.  In Milham’s ‘Roman banquet’, which was a well attended event, students dressed in togas reclined on gym mats in the Gymnasium, eating with their fingers and drinking spiked grape juice! Milham’s last large scale student extravaganza was in 1959, when the streets of Pompeii came to life in the Gym and a true public spectacle was created. According to Cattley’s report “…every corner and passage of the gym basement was converted into some street, alley, house or establishment of Pompeii…and the furnace room (became) the Sybil’s cave... Of the estimated 400 who attended at least 100 were in costume, for the 10 best of which the department awarded prizes.”

Today this tradition continues but on a more modest scale with the yearly Ancient Banquet hosted by the Classics Club, while other student entertainment activities such film nights and pub crawls have been introduced. 

aboout 10
Daily Gleaner                                                                            Daily Gleaner April 1956
                                                                                                "The Roman Banquet"


The Department of Classics and Ancient History offers some of the oldest, most prestigious and numerous awards in the Faculty of Arts.  In fact, the first scholarships at UNB which covered a student’s annual expenses were established in 1831 by Rev. Edwin Jacob, professor of Classics.  Later in 1864 the prestigious Alumni Gold Medal Award (now gold-plated) was established and awarded to a student in Classics, while the famous Montgomery-Campbell prize in honour of the former classics professor George Campbell was first conferred in 1880 to the best junior student in Classics. By 1916 five of the most illustrious prizes and scholarships (including the Douglas Silver Medal) and more than half of the total awarded at UNB were offered by the Classics Department. 

about 11
The Alumni Gold Medal

The number of prizes in Classics continued to increase with the addition of the Macfarlane Prize in 1930, which was (and still is) the largest prize ever given to the Department of Classics.  It was awarded annually to the best Greek and Latin student of the graduating class and served to kindle a renewed interest in the study of ancient languages, and in particular Greek.  Following the death of Miss White, a former Alumni Gold Medal recipient of 1896 and one of Bridges best students, the Edna White Prize was endowed in 1962 and awarded to students in Greek or Latin at the junior level.  In the latter part of the 20th century changes occurred in the curriculum and as a result the Viator Award was established by Mary Ella Milham to assist students in their study-travels to classical lands. More recently, with the establishment of the Centre for Hellenic Studies in 2007 two new annual awards, The Athena and Aristotle scholarships were offered by the Greek Canadian Community of New Brunswick. 

For more information and a complete list of awards and scholarships offered by the Department of Classics and Ancient History go to the departmental home page.


Classical education in the 19th century and into the early 20th century served as a status symbol and a sign of cultivation, pursued by those wishing to become lawyers, government officials, poets and clergymen.  Many UNB Classics graduates went on to follow distinguished careers in teaching, administration, politics and literature.  Charles Fisher (King’s College graduate in 1829) became a lawyer, a premier of NB and one of the Fathers of Confederation. Two former students of George Campbell, who received the Douglas Gold Medal in Classics, were Sir George R. Parkin (BA 1867; M.A. 1872; D.C.L. Oxford, 1911; K.C.M.B. 1920) and George Foster.  Parkin became principal of the Collegiate School in 1889 and of Upper Canada College in 1898, and also served for many years as a member of the board of the Rhodes scholarships. George Foster (B.A. 1868; LL.D. 1894; K.C.M.G. in 1914 and G.C.M.G. in 1918) on the other hand was appointed professor of Classics at UNB and later served as member of parliament for the Province of New Brunswick, as M.P. for Toronto, and as vice-president of the League of Nations in 1921. 

about 12
George Foster                                            W.S. MacFarlane                                 Sir Charles G. D. Roberts

Another distinguished classics graduate is W. S. Macfarlane (BA 1869) who became Attorney General for the State of New York.  He was a personal friend of Theodore Roosevelt and a frequent guest at the White house during the Roosevelt and Wilson administrations.  Included in this list of famous UNB Classics grads are the two well known Canadian authors and poets W. Bliss Carman and Sir Charles. G. D. Roberts, both UNB Alumni Gold medal winners in Classics, who had illustrious literary careers. Carman, Canada’s Poet Laureate in 1921, after receiving a BA with honours in Greek and Latin in 1881 held numerous prestigious editorial positions in the US, while Roberts was the first Canadian to be knighted (1935) for his contributions to literature in which the influence of classics is evident.



      1797- 1802

Rev. James Bisset (King’s College, Windsor), was the first known Classicist in Fredericton, was appointed in 1797 at the Academy of Arts and Sciences and later in 1800 became the “principal Preceptor” of the College of New Brunswick and is therefore acknowledged as UNB’s first president.

      1811- 1839
about 13a

Rev. James Somerville was a graduate of King’s College, Aberdeen (A.M., 1795; LL.D. 1827). He served as Classics Master at the Academy and in 1820 became the first president and only professor for the newly established College of New Brunswick. After the renaming of the college in 1829 to King’s College, he served as acting head of the institution and was also a part-time professor in Divinity.

      1829 - 1861
about 13b

Rev. Dr. Edwin Jacob (Corpus Christi College, Oxford, B. A. 1815; M.A. 1818; Fellow, 1820-27; B.D., D.D., 1829).  Jacob was appointed professor of Classics, and later Vice-President and principal of King’s College in 1848, while in 1860 he became professor of Classics and Modern Languages for the newly established University of New Brunswick. He made two important contributions to the University by establishing the first Encaenia (festival of the Founders) in June 24, 1830 and the Latin formulae for the granting of degrees. He also established the first scholarships for students.


George M. Campbell (M.A., Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge).  Campbell was a Cambridge graduate and became professor of Classics at UNB in 1861.  He was inspired by the educational reforms instigated by Pestalozzi and introduced innovative methods in teaching the Classical languages. He died at the early age of 40 and later, in 1880, his children established the Montgomery-Campbell prize in his honour for the best junior in Classics.


Vaughn Boulger (Trinity College, Dublin) served for a brief time as professor of Classics.

about 13c

George E. Foster (UNB, B.A. 1868; LL.D. 1894). He was the first UNB graduate hired as a professor of Classics. Foster spent the first year of his appointment on a study leave in Europe (1872-1873) where he was influenced by current approaches to the study of Classics. At Edinburgh he was exposed to new philosophical trends and at Heidelburg to later German classicism which focused on the application of scientific tests and methods to the study of Classics from which emerged new areas of study (Anthropology, Linguistics, Art History etc.). These new trends along with Schliemann’s excavations at Troy in 1872 made an impact on Foster, who acquired an “educational sophistication” not found in Classics until many decades later.


George Roberts (Oxford; honourary M.A. King’s College; Honourary doctorate, UNB). Roberts served as acting Professor of Classics during Foster’s leave.

      1879- 1881

John Fletcher (B.A. Toronto and Balliol College, Oxford).  Fletcher served as Chair of the Classics Department for a brief two-year period.

about 13d

Henry S. Bridges (B. A., Alumni Gold Medal, 1869: M.A. 1871). Bridges graduated from the University of New Brunswick and became professor and Chair of the department of Classics in 1881. Under Bridges the 1890’s were acknowledged as the Golden age of Classics of the 19th century.  He revised the curriculum by introducing courses in ancient history and classical civilization, and redefined the main objectives of the classical discipline that reflected 20th century ideas.  In particular, Bridges went beyond the instruction of ancient languages and focused on the daily life, the “manners and customs…of the Greek and Romans.”

      1896- 1929
about 13e

William Tyng Raymond (B.A. UNB, 1883; BA Harvard 1892) was appointed professor and Chair of Classics in 1896.  Under Raymond the first MA degrees in Classics were awarded, the recipients of which were women. He was also the first classics professor to become involved with theatre production and became the first university director to allow female students to partake in dramatic performances (two 18th century comedies, Sheridan’s The Rivals, and Goldsmith’s She stoops to Conquer). After the turn of the century enrollment numbers in Classics dropped due to WWI and the general social and economic changes. By the end of his tenure Greek was no longer offered and the deletion of Latin from the curriculum was also being considered.

      1929- 1939

Robert E. D. Cattley. (St Catherine’s College, Cambridge) See below.


S. Eric Smethurst (B.A., M.A. St. John’s Cantab., Cambridge). Smethurst was appointed in 1939 and served as chair and professor of Classics for a short period of time.  He laid a greater emphasis on courses in Classical literature and ancient history and eliminated the composition of Latin verse. Smethurst later became Head of the Classics Department at Queens and President of the Classical Association of Canada.

about 13f

Robert E. D. Cattley. (St Catherine’s College, Cambridge) Professor emeritus UNB.  Cattley was the most distinguished professor and Head of the Department Classics of the 20th century. Under Cattley major reforms were introduced that brought about a revival of the Classics and later resulted in the popularity and high demand for Classics courses at UNB. Greek was re-introduced into the curriculum (with the help of the MacFarlane Scholarship in 1930) and the instruction of classical languages flourished while courses of a greater appeal and interest to students were added to the program. He staged numerous dramatic productions, presented the Cattley Trohpy in Drama (1932) and became the first chairman of the New Brunswick Drama Festival Committee (1933).  Following a tradition established by classical scholars, in 1932 he swam the Hellespont. During these early years he also contributed to the founding of the Classical Association of the Maritime Provinces in 1930.  In 1956 Cattley was awarded the Canadian Humanities Association Fellowship and spent a study year at the Institute of Classical Studies at the University of London. During his long and distinguished career at UNB he became known campus wide as the first and “most distinguished” university orator and writer of the Latin formulae for over 40 graduation ceremonies which he conducted with great eloquence and showmanship.

      1957- 1984
Leonard C. Smith

Leonard C. Smith (B.A. MA Durham; Ph.D. Liverpool). Professor emeritus UNB.  Leonard Smith served as head and chair of the Department of Classics. He was an historian and the first archaeologist in the department, trained by the famous British archaeologist Sir Ian Richmond, who was actively engaged abroad.  He had conducted extensive field work at Hadrian’s Wall and later excavated at Anemurium, Turkey, with the support of grants from Canada Council.  In 1963 Smith was awarded the Nuffield Travel Grant and in 1964-65 a Canada Council Leave Fellowship.



John William Geyssen, Associate Professor at UNB, received his BA (Honours, 1985) and MA (1987) degrees from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and Ph.D. (1992) from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. He arrived at the University of New Brunswick in 1992 and was granted tenure in 2000. He quickly became one of the most popular professors on campus, receiving the Faculty of Arts Teaching Award in 2000, and the UNB Student Union Teaching Excellence Merit Award in 2008.  His dramatic and passionate lecturing in ARTS 1000, the compulsory first-year history of ideas course, made his name well known to all students in Arts.  His devotion to students was reflected in his long-time service as an undergraduate advisor and the wide variety of courses he introduced at the undergraduate and graduate levels on topics of Greek and Roman myth and religion, art, and the classical languages. He was instrumental in establishing the Interdepartmental Programme in Archaeology (Classics and Anthropology) and was an important part of the Classics Department’s pioneering overseas study programs in Italy and Greece. His scholarly contributions include a number of publications, among them a book, The Imperial Panegyric in Statius: A literary Commentary on Silvae 1.1, his long-time service (1999-2008) as editor of The Canadian Classical Bulletin, and later (2008) as editor of the journal Mouseion. His sudden and untimely death in the middle of a successful term as Chair will always be lamented.






Calendar of the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, 1864-65, Fredericton, 1864. UNB Archives.

Milham, Mary E., Greek an’ Latin an’ A’. An abbreviated history of collegiate Classics at Fredericton, 1785-1985, Fredericton, 1986.

Montague, Susan, A Pictorial History of the University of New Brunswick,  Fredericton, 1992.

Robins, H. A History of higher education in Canada, 1663-1960, University of Toronto Press, 1976.

The Register being a list of former students and graduates of The College of New Brunswick Later King’s College and Since 1859, The University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB, Associated Alumni of the University of New Brunswick, 1924, UNB Archives.

Synopsis of the System of Education established by the University of King’s College, Fredericton, New Brunswick, John Simpson Press, 1838. UNB Archives.

UARG 58, Kings College Students, graduates and Professors 1828-1840. UNB Archives.

UNB Class Composite and Group Photographs Database. http://www.lib.unb.ca/archives/UNBComposites/

UNB Honourary Degrees Database (for Robert E. D. Cattley) http://www.lib.unb.ca/archives/HonoraryDegrees/orators.php