Queen’s Firsts

One of the fun aspects of going to Queen’s (where I did my M.A.) was reading the local paper, which had the great name Whig-Standard (which is almost as good as Times-Picayune) and I note a letter to the editor this past week from R. Drew Griffith, one of my former professors and current head of the department (I believe):

The story “Hate on campus” (Jan. 24) outlines Queen’s University’s uphill battle for inclusiveness, noting that last month the university’s board of trustees failed to endorse a plan to name a building on campus after Robert Sutherland (BA, 1852), the first black graduate of any college in British North America, later a successful lawyer and Queen’s first major benefactor.

When Sutherland’s story is fully celebrated, as it should be, I will note with pride that he majored in classics (my department) and mathematics, and that he graduated with a prize for translation from English into ancient Greek verse, a feat neither my colleagues nor I nowadays would dare to attempt.

Queen’s classics department scored another first, by the way, in 1917, when it and the English department appointed Queen’s first two female professors – not too shabby for a field devoted to the study of dead European males.

There’s actually a visiting professorship at Queen’s named for Sutherland as well, and the accompanying biography in the description thereof only mentions a Classics connection in passing (if that) … perhaps some rectification of this would be a good thing as well. Perhaps we need a Canadian version of Twelve Black Classicists

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