For God and for truth: Colgate and the classical world

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The Doric columns of Memorial Chapel. The Latin inscription on James C. Colgate Hall. The university motto. Students and faculty encounter these vestiges of the classical world on campus almost daily. As the university’s bicentennial approaches, a spring seminar course and current exhibition highlight these classical traditions alongside the history of Colgate.

Deo ac Veritati: Pursuing the Classics at Colgate is the culminating project of the course The Classics and the History of Colgate University, taught by Rebecca Miller Ammerman, professor of the classics. Located on the third floor of Case Library, the exhibition is open until next April.

As visitors ascend the third-floor staircase, they’re surrounded by a set of transparencies that line the staircase’s glass panels on three sides. Mirroring the old within the new, the transparencies depict the interior of the university’s first library, which was located in James B. Colgate Hall until 1959.

“The transparencies are enlarged reproductions of the original glass plates captured by the photographer,” explained Michael Holobosky, who developed the idea for the visual backbone of the exhibition. Holobosky is not only a student in the class, but he’s also employed at Colgate as a graphic design and digital print specialist.

The exhibition also includes textbooks that belonged to Colgate’s early classics professors, three portrait busts, Greek homework assignments, and a side-by-side comparison of a classics student’s desk from then and now.

“I hope visitors realize that the ideas of the ancient Greeks and Romans were formative to many of our own,” Ammerman said. “There’s great value in cultures that make us reflect upon our own situation.”

Megan Delaney ’17 added, “I want people to come away with a new appreciation for the classics; not just how it’s shaped Colgate’s identity, but also how it’s shaped the American collegiate educational system.”

She, Holobosky, and Erica Hiddink ’17 will continue to collaborate throughout the summer in an effort to make their findings available online to students and alumni worldwide.