North American Scholar

STEWART, Zeph

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1921-01-01
  • Born City: Jackson
  • Born State/Country: MI
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 2007-12-01
  • Death City: Watertown
  • Death State/Country: MA
  • Married: Diana Childers, 29 December 1959
  • Education:

    B.A. Yale, 1942; A.M. (hon.) Harvard, 1955

  • Professional Experience:

    Junior fellow, Society of Fellows, Harvard, 1949-51; Instr. to asso. prof. classics, Harvard, 1953-62; prof. Greek & Latin, 1962-2007; Chair, dept. classics, 1977-82; Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Humanities, 1981-2007; Allston Burr senior tutor Adams House, 1955-60; Master, Lowell House, 1963-75; member administrative committee, Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington, DC, 1979-2007; director, 1985-92; Legion of Merit; Guggenheim fell., 1965-66; Barlow-Beach Award, CANE, 2000; trustee, Bishop Rhinelander Foundation, 1964-70; trustee, Hotchkiss School, 1964-79, 1982-87; Radcliffe College, 1972-76; Loeb Classical Library, 1973-???; Institute for Advanced Study, 1979-89; member, Yale University Council, 1976-81; advisory council for Department of Classics, Princeton, 1970-80; board of directors, Aegean Institute, 1979-89; board of advisors, Dumbarton Oaks; vice president, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1979-82; director APA, 1977-80; 1st vice president, 1982; president, 1983

  • Publications:

    “Insular Script without Insular Abbreviations. A Problem in Eighth-Century Palaeography,” Speculum 25 (1950) 483-90; “Sejanus, Gaetulicus, and Seneca,” AJP 74 (1953) 70-85; “Democritus and the Cynics,” HSCP 63 (1958) 179-191; “The Amphitruo of Plautus and Euripides' Bacchae,” TAPA 89 (1958) 348-73; “The Song of Silenus,” HSCP 64 (1959) 179-205; “The God Nocturnus in Plautus' Amphitruo,” JRS 50 (1960) 37-43; Selections from Horace: Readings of an Unpublished Tenth-Century Manuscript in the Harvard University Library (ed.) (Cambridge, MA, 1962); The Ancient World. Justice, Heroism and Responsibility (ed.) (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1966) REV: Vergilius No 12 (1966) 53 Evans; A.D. Nock, Essays on Religion and the Ancient World, selected and edited with an introd., bibliogr. & indexes by Stewart, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1972) REVS: CW LXVII 1973 41 Smith | JThS XXIV 1973 575-576 Harvey | RelStud IX 1973 479-482 Ferguson | HR XIII 1973 250 Smith | JBL XCII 1973 474-475 Epp | RFIC CI 1973 513-518 Parente | JCS XXII 1974 133-136 Hidemura | Gnomon XLVI 1974 83-85 Richard | ThLZ XCIX 1974 175-178 Rudolph | CR XXV 1975 82-84 Ogilvie ; AArchHung XXVI 1974 441-442 Castiglione ; JRS LXVI 1976 239-240 North; “La religione, VIII,” in La società ellenistica. Quadro politico : Storia e civiltà dei Greci, VIII: Economia, diritto, religione, ed. R. Bianchi Bandinelli, with an introduction by A. Barigazzi (Milan, 1977) 503-616; “Greek Crowns and Christian Martyrs,” Mémorial André-Jean Festugiére. Antiquité païenne et chrétienne. Vingt-cinq études réunies et présentées, ed. E. Lucchesi & H.D. Saffrey (Geneva, 1984) 119-24; “Changing Patterns of Scholarship as Seen from the Center for Hellenic Studies,” AJP 111 (1990) 257-263; “Laughter and the Greek Philosophers: A Sketch,” Laughter down the Centuries. 1, ed. Siegfried Jäkel and Asko Timonen (Turku 1994) 29-37; “Plautus' ‘Amphitruo’: Three Problems,” HSCP 100 (2000) 293-299.

  • Notes:

    Zeph Stewart was raised in Cincinnati in a politically prominent family: his father served as mayor and then on the Ohio Supreme Court, and his older brother Potter became a justice on the United States Supreme Court. Both brothers were educated at the Hotchkisss School, where Zeph, class of 1939, would later serve as a trustee and receive the 1964 alumni award, and Yale, where he graduated with the highest honors in Classics in 1942. Zeph attended both schools as a scholarship student, his family having suffered financially during the Depression. Immediately after graduation he joined the army for two tours (1943-7), having been recruited by Edwin O. Reischauer to learn Japanese and serve in military intelligence; he was based in Washington, DC, London, and Paris and rose to the rank of captain. During the Korean War (1951-3) he was recalled to active duty with a NATO delegation again in London and Paris, where he served in diplomatic liaison.

     

    Zeph entered the graduate program in Classics at Harvard and became a Junior Fellow, which allowed him to pursue his scholarly interests without formal requirements or the need to complete a Ph.D. degree. In 1953 after his NATO service, he joined the faculty at Harvard and remained there for the rest of his long career serving (among many other roles) as Master of Lowell House (1963-75), department chair (1977-82), director of the Center for Hellenic Studies (1985-92), executive trustee of the Loeb Classical Library (1973-2004), and Trustee of the Episcopal Chaplaincy. He was awarded emeritus status in 1992 but remained active in department and university life regularly participating in the student-faculty lunches that he had instituted as Chair, and making his expertise available to colleagues, especially junior faculty members, on their own scholarly projects.

     

    Zeph published on subjects ranging from Latin palaeography and Latin poetry (especially Virgil and Horace) and drama (notably Plautus) to Greek philosophy and early Christian martyrs, but his main interest lay in ancient religion, particularly in the transition to Christianity.

     

    Beyond Harvard, Zeph took a very active interest in supporting and encouraging classics at college and secondary levels, particularly in the Classical Association of New England (which in 2000 bestowed on him its Barlow-Beach Award “for exceptional service to the classics in New England”) and the Teachers of Classics in New England, in which he served in various administrative roles, including the presidency. He played important roles at the national level as well, having held eight different appointments in offices and committees of the APA. As both President (1983) and Financial Trustee (1994-2001) he introduced important reforms that restored the fiscal health of the APA and made both of its capital campaigns possible.

     

    The Harvard community long regarded Zeph as “legendary” for his many contributions to the University’s academic life, from facilitating social and intellectual collegiality among faculty within and outside his department to pioneering important changes for undergraduates –often in concert with Diana, his accomplished and incomparably gracious wife of nearly 48 years. Ever attuned to people and trusting their better natures, Zeph knew when the moment was right for innovation, as in 1965, when he explained to the Harvard Crimson why gatherings at Lowell House after home football games would be extended until midnight: “the character of the student body has gradually changed and the students are less likely to become disorderly at after-game parties than they were a couple of decades ago.” More momentously, the Stewarts led by example in steering their Lowell House community peacefully through the tumultuous Vietnam era, in integrating faculty into the life of the House, and in being the first to volunteer for “The Experiment,” a Harvard initiative of the early 1970s to test co-educational housing, whose success at Lowell House was the first step leading to the full integration of men and women in the College.

     

    Zeph’s importance as a mentor of graduate students can perhaps be exemplified by my own experience. I will never forget our first meeting in the fall of 1968 at the elegant reception for that year’s new graduate students, for which I had fished my only suit out of a U-Haul box in my dreadful new apartment (“You’re young, you can take it,” my landlord had said). Among the faculty in attendance, Zeph (and only Zeph) made a point of introducing himself to this nervous newcomer and quickly established the background that we had in common—amazing to me, a New Jersey boy of undistinguished pedigree and feeling more than a little out of his element, until I came to learn that Zeph was interested in, and seemed never to forget, anyone that he ever encountered or knew of, and he had an exceptionally broad range of acquaintances. Zeph came to my recue again three years later, when my proposal to write a dissertation on obscene language in Attic comedy was very coolly received by the faculty: such topics had not yet become acceptable in classical scholarship, and indeed it had been only a few years since the U.S. obscenity laws were relaxed enough to allow such a publication (initially through a 1964 Supreme Court decision featuring brother Potter Stewart’s famous remark in his concurring opinion, “I know it when I see it.”). Zeph agreed to direct my dissertation when no one else cared to, even though this was a topic far from his own areas of expertise. Without him I doubt that I would have had the confidence, let alone the support, that I needed in order to succeed. Perhaps the least well known among Zeph’s achievements is the crucial role he played in rescuing the Loeb Classical Library, rescuing it from financial peril, reorganizing its operations, refreshing and expanding its catalogue, restoring its profitability, and greatly improving its quality.

     

    When Zeph became Executive Trustee of the Library in 1973, the production of new volumes had virtually stopped, sales were down, and management was inadequate, the British publisher, Heinemann, having been sold several times and losing interest in non-trade books. In concert with Brian Murphy, Operations Manager at the Harvard University Press, which since 1933 had served as the American distributor of the Library and was in charge of its fiscal affairs, Zeph undertook a wholesale restructuring of the Library’s operations and financial plan. When Heinemann finally decided no longer to publish the Library, the Press was in a position to assume sole production and distribution of the Library in January of 1989. Zeph organized a group of scholars in the U.S. and the UK to assess the volumes, prioritize works for addition or revision, and recommend potential editors. This became the basis for the successful renewal plan that is still the Library’s operational guide. At the same time, Zeph acted to improve the scholarly quality of the volumes. He persuaded George Goold to become General Editor in 1974 and together they rationalized and reformed the Library’s editorial standards and protocols, including removal of the injunction, in authors’ contracts, to alter or omit anything that “might give offense.” Indispensable were Zeph’s vision and respect for what the Library should be, his keen judgment about the right projects and the right scholars to tackle each one, and his matchless tact and skill at recruiting potential authors, or letting them down gently when they were not right for the job. He was active on the editorial side too, pitching in as needed or offering his own (and always valuable) take on problems. When Zeph recruited me to understudy and then to succeed George, he was as ever a superb mentor, showing care for a colleague but also watching out for the security of the greater enterprise, and then warmly embracing the changes that the new editor ventured to make, at least the worthwhile ones. Finally, in his last few years, Zeph was instrumental in establishing the Loeb Classical Library Foundation, which now provides fellowships to support the research of classicists worldwide. Attentive readers will notice a lasting tribute to Zeph on the publication-data page of newer Loeb volumes: “Composed in ZephGreek and ZephText.”

     

    A young colleague once informed me that he had actually seen Zeph wearing jeans! I was able to reassure him that Zeph was in fact an outdoorsman whose favorite vacation spot was a primitive cabin in the Wind River Mountain Range near Cora, Wyoming, a tiny town that in its heyday had a saloon, a blacksmith shop, a dance hall, and even a newspaper but now has only an historic post office.

     

    In 1957 Zeph wrote a letter to the Harvard Crimson recognizing a member of the janitorial staff soon to retire, who by his example “taught countless undergraduates the value of gentlemanly conduct and of directness and integrity for living a good life.” On a grander scale but in an equally humble way, Zeph has done the same for all who knew him.

    He was one of the most distinguished, influential, and admired figures of his generation, whose uncommon legacy lies not primarily in his published scholarship but in his broad and important contributions in leadership and service both scholarly and institutional, in the affection of his many students and colleagues worldwide, and in the hearts of his innumerable friends. Zeph was an American aristocrat with the common touch, who devoted to the betterment of his world his remarkable talents and skills: quiet charisma; an attractive interest in everyone he encountered, the great and humble alike, and a natural inclination to find and focus on their good qualities; an indefatigable liking for bringing people together, with the tact and social graces that elicited the best in even the most socially challenged members of any gathering; deep learning and scholarly acumen worn lightly; firmly held standards and principles that lived easily with tolerance, openness, humor, and curiosity; and a remarkable record of professional achievements that always looked to be more the profession’s than his own.

     

  • Sources:

    Jeffrey Henderson, APA Newsletter (February 2008) 32-4; John Duffy, Harvard Gazette (6 December 2007); Kathleen Coleman, Diana Eck, Peter Gomes, Richard Thomas, Harvard Gazette (11 December 2008); Brian Marquand, Boston Globe (12 December 2007); Special Memorial Issue, Nota Bene 13,3 (Spring/Summer 2008); WhAm 50 (1996) 4035.

  • Author: Jeffrey Henderson