North American Scholar

SCANLAN, Richard Thomas

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1928-05-30
  • Born City: St. Paul
  • Born State/Country: MN
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 2009-06-21
  • Death City: Urbana
  • Death State/Country: IL
  • Married: Donna Mary Campion, 29 December 1951
  • Education:

    B.S. University of Minnesota; M.A. 1952.

  • Professional Experience:

    Teacher, Hastings High School, Minnesota, 1953-5; Edina High School, Minnesota, 1955-67; asso. prof. Classics, University of Illinois, 1967-80; prof., 1980-98; educational consultant, 1960-75; member, Latin Achievement Test Committee, College Entrance Examination Board, 1960-65; chairman Latin Advanced Placement Exam Committee, 1967-72; Chief Examiner, Classics Program, 1973-77; Excellent Teacher Award, American Classical League, 1966; recipient Silver Medal of the National Council for the Advancement of Education, 1985.

  • Publications:

    A Survey of Latin Textbooks," CJ 71, 3 (1975-6) 255-75; "A Computer-Assisted Instruction Course in Vocabulary Building," Foreign Language Annals, 9 (1976) 579-83; "Suggestions for a Course in Ancient and Modern Tragedy," CO 1977; Beginning Latin (1977) Word Power (1977); Latin Composition (1977); Power in Words (1983); The Myths of Greece and Rome (Urbana, Bellwether Press, 1986).

  • Notes:

    Dick Scanlan was nothing less than an institution on the campus of the University of Illinois. So popular was his course on classical mythology that most Illini felt they had been shortchanged on their tuition if they did not take it. The class regularly closed at 1200, though it might easily have had twice that number eager to register for it. In lieu of a standard lecture, Dick would often dress up as a mythological figure, Hercules, Vulcan, or even Venus and be interviewed onstage by a graduate assistant. He was one of the early consultants on the PLATO system, the first successful program for teaching via computers. His Latin Skills course was later adapted for Apple and PC computers and for all the common textbooks, especially Wheelock's. It was estimated that Scanlan taught over 50,000 Illini students in the course of his career. As with Mr. Chips, Scanlan taught generations of the same Illini families, often first encountering them in high schools when he delivered the latest adventures of his own hand-drawn cartoon character "Superlegatus." His mythology and Roman civilization courses were so profitable that his department had the luxury of offering rarefied courses like Old Nubian to only a handful of students. Like many a charismatic figure of antiquity, Scanlan was imbued by the students (and particularly the football team) with prophetic powers. So notable were his public readings of the omens at football games and pep rallies (even though his regular predictions of an Illinois victory did not always come true), appearing from a cloud of smoke at the 50-yard line in the mantic robes of a priest of Apollo and carried aloft on a litter by students, that he was featured in PEOPLE magazine. A permanent deacon of his Catholic church, he received the Père Marquette Award for service to the church in 2005 for his work as preacher and advocate for the disadvantaged.

  • Sources:

    WhAm 54 (2000) 4317; DAS 8.3.464

  • Author: Ward W. Briggs, Jr.