North American Scholar
WOLFE, Ethyle Renée
B.A. U. Vermont, 1940; M.A., 1942; postgraduate work Bryn Mawr, 1942-3; Ph.D., NYU, 1950; L.H.D. (hon.) CUNY, 1989; Litt.D. (hon.) Iona Coll., 1989.
- Professional Experience:
Tchng fellow, U. Vermont, 1940-2; research fellow, Bryn Mawr, 1942-3; instr. Classics, Brooklyn College, 1947-9; instr. class. Langs., 1949-54; asst. prof., 1954-9; asso. prof. 1960-8; prof. 1968-89; actng. chair, Dept. Classics & Comp. Lit., 1962-3; chair, 1967-72; dean, Brooklyn College School of Humanities, 1971-8; exec. officer, Brooklyn College Humanities Institute, 1980-9; provost & v.p. for academic affairs, 1982-8; Chair, comm. on undergraduate affairs, comm. on university-wide programs, CUNY; study group, AAAS, 1987-9; pub., 1987-9; dir. Nat. Core Visitors Programs, 1985-9; Fund for Improvement of Post-Secondary Education-Funded Center for Core Studies, 1987-8; co-chair, Senate Report Chancellor’s College Prep Initiatives; ed. Board, CW, 1965-71;co-ed. American Classical Review 1971-6; Alumni Achievement Award, U. Vermont, 1985; National Presidential Medal, NEH, Charles Frankel Prize, 1990; NEH grantee, 1971, 1982-4; Mellon Found., 1982-5, 1986-9; Exxon Found., 1986-9; Josiah Macy, 1986-90; pres. New York Classical Club.
"The Papyrus Texts in the New York University Library" (NYU, 1950).
“Transportation in Augustan Egypt,” TAPA 83 (1952) 80-99; “Completed Doctoral Dissertations, 1970-1971,” ACR 1 (1971) 182-4; “Contract of Loan with Mortgage, I,” in Collectanea Papyrologica. Texts Published in Honour of H.C. Youtie, I, ed. A.E. Hanson (Bonn: Habelt, 1976) 305-13.
After graduating summa cum laude from the University of Vermont and subsequently for her M.A. a 365-page thesis on the treatment of the Trojan Cycle in Ovid, Ethyle Wolfe moved to Bryn Mawr, where she studied with T.R.S. Broughton, Lily Ross Taylor, and Richmond Lattimore. She left without a degree following the heroic death of her first husband in World War II and began teaching part-time at Brooklyn College. While working on her Ph.D. at NYU, she met her husband of fifty years, Coleman Benedict, whose own academic career was largely spent at nearby Columbia University.
She rose quickly through the ranks at Brooklyn College, where she was by all accounts a devoted and inspiring teacher, but her genius for academic administration was revealed in 1967 when she became chairperson of the Department of Classics and Comparative Literature. Under her guidance it quickly grew to over forty faculty members serving thousands of students each semester. While still chair, she was appointed Dean of the School of Humanities and subsequently provost.
Ethyle was the kind of creative administrator who could deftly find a way to achieve a desired result no matter what structural or human obstacles seemed to be in the way. A notable example is the Summer Latin/Greek Institute for which she created a robust administrative structure, both inside and outside the department. She was also a shrewd judge of character who could forge a consensus where none had existed and inspire people to work together who were not inclined to trust each other. In all her dealings, large and small, she never lost sight of the greater good, and to her that was humanistic education, with classics as its heart. In her own view, and most would agree, her greatest triumph was the foundation of Brooklyn College’s core curriculum, which requires every student to take a prescribed set of courses, beginning with "Classical Cultures.” To support this she organized symposia and faculty seminars that evolved into the Humanities Institute, which was renamed the Ethyle R. Wolfe Humanities Institute on her retirement in 1989. Grants from the NEH, FIPSE, and the Mellon Foundation, which she wrote, gave impetus to the faculty effort that made her dream a reality.
The core curriculum and her role in its creation received national recognition. In 1990 the NEH honored her with its Charles Frankel Prize for bringing greater understanding of the humanities to general audiences.
Dee L. Clayman, CW 103,4 (2010) 542-3; WhAmWom 26 (2007) 1765.
- Author: Dee L. Clayman