d.m. Helen North

From the Inquirer:

Helen F. North, 90, professor emerita of classics at Swarthmore College, died Saturday, Jan. 21, at Crozer-Chester Medical Center.

In a tribute to Dr. North, Swarthmore College president Rebecca Chopp said: “The college has lost not just a brilliant scholar who was instrumental in building one of the most influential classics departments at a liberal-arts college, but also, as one who taught and cultivated relationships among generations of Swarthmore students for more than 60 years, a complete embodiment of the teacher-scholar.”

A native of Utica, N.Y., Dr. North earned a bachelor’s degree in 1942, a master’s in 1943, and a doctorate in the classics in 1945 from Cornell University.

She taught at Rosary College in Illinois before joining the Swarthmore faculty in 1948.

An avid equestrienne, she told an interviewer for Swarthmore’s alumni magazine that then-president John Nason informed her she was the only job candidate who ever insisted on seeing the school’s stables.

As a young faculty member, Dr. North, a devout Catholic, helped establish – over Nason’s objections – a Newman Club for Catholic students at Swarthmore.

Dr. North held several visiting-teaching appointments, including at Columbia University, Vassar College, and Cornell. She was a classicist in residence at the American Academy in Rome and held teaching and research posts at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.

She was the recipient of National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright, and Ford Foundation fellowships and two fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation.

Dr. North wrote numerous articles for academic publications, published two books on Greek literature, and was editor and translator of several classical volumes and college texts.

She was a member of the American Philosophical Society; past president of the American Philological Association; and chairwoman, for eight years, of the search committee for the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program. From 1973 to 2003, she served on the board of La Salle University.

Her many honors include a Harbison Prize, for outstanding accomplishments in college teaching. In 1989, she was named a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania.

Chopp said in her tribute, “Although she retired from teaching at Swarthmore in 1991, Helen remained thoroughly engaged with the college community. Until recently, she continued to meet weekly with her colleagues in classics to read, translate, and discuss Greek poetry. She also regularly attended Alumni Weekend and the annual lectureship in classics established in her name in 1996.”

For years, Dr. North led Alumni College Abroad trips. Travelers would marvel, Chopp said, at her “near-encyclopedic knowledge of even the tiniest details of Christian as well as classical symbolism.”

In the alumni magazine interview, Dr. North said her idea of earthly happiness was the life she had. “When I walk across campus and stop in the rose garden or at the weeping cherry trees, I have a feeling it’s all kept up just for me.”

Dr. North and her sister, Mary, lived in a house Mary North designed in Swarthmore. They traveled annually in Ireland, the home of their ancestors, and wrote two guidebooks on Ireland’s earliest art and archaeology.

Mary North died in 2001. Dr. North has no survivors.

A Funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 28, at Notre Dame de Lourdes Roman Catholic Church, 950 Michigan Ave., Swarthmore. A reception will be in the church school. Burial will be in SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Marple Township.

A memorial gathering will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 21, at the Friends Meeting House on the Swarthmore College campus, 12 Whittier Place, Swarthmore.

Donations may be made to Notre Dame de Lourdes School, 1000 Fairview Rd., Swarthmore, Pa. 19081.

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