North American Scholar

WYATT, William Frank

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1878-10-05
  • Born City: Carrollton
  • Born State/Country: KY
  • Parents: James Alexander, a tchr. & farmer, & Jesse Grant Howe W.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1961-07-28
  • Death City: Medford
  • Death State/Country: MA
  • Married: Natalie Murray Gifford, 21 Aug. 1931.
  • Education:

    A.B. Centre Coll., 1904; A.M. Harvard, 1912; Ph.D., 1915.

  • Professional Experience:

    Asst. Princ. Mt. Sterling (KY) HS, 1904-5; instr. Lat., Gk., Eng. Transylvania U., 1905-10; Harvard, 1910-1915 (Sheldon Traveling Fellowship 1912-3); asst. prof, to prof, class. Tufts Coll., 1914-52; lctr., 1952-6; YMCA in Italy, 1918-9; mng. comm. ASCSA, 1947-61.

  • Dissertation:

    "De scripturae Hibernicae fontibus" (Harvard, 1915).

  • Publications:

    "Ennodius and Pope Symmachus, Part II," Studies Rand, 284-91; Contributor on Roman Law to D. Rounds, ed., Articles on Antiquity in Festschriften, an Index (Cambridge, 1962).

  • Notes:

    William F. Wyatt taught at Tufts from 1914 until 1956, never taking a sabbatical leave. He was away from Tufts for but one year, 1918-19, during which year he served with the YMCA in Italy as director of the Turin office. He was too old and his eyesight too poor to allow him to serve in the armed forces, but he was moved to serve at a time when "things looked dark for the allies and when my own work temporarily lost importance in comparison with the great contest that was then going on." He was knighted by the king as Cavaliere della Corona d'ltalia. After this one absence he taught continuously at Tufts, and once remarked that he would pay Tufts to allow him to teach if they should prove unable to pay him. Fortunately for us, Tufts remained solvent.At Tufts he taught Greek and Latin as well as courses in English translation. During his first year he taught Greek 2, 3, 6 (1 hr.), archaeology 7, and the New Testament, for a total of 13 hours a week, at a salary of $900. It is a measure of trends in American higher education that his office in Ballou Hall is now the office of the president of the university. He introduced the study of language to Tufts and was a foundation member of the Linguistic Society of America. He described himself as being of a "deeply religious nature," though he never displayed any interest in formal religion. He taught for many years and with great success in the Crane Theological School. Born in Kentucky to a farming family, though his father occasionally taught school, he was the only member of the family to attain any degree of higher education. He entered Centre College when he was already older than most undergraduates today, and did not graduate until 1904, when he was 26: he had been away from Centre for two years because of illness. His desire for more advanced work took him first to an instructorship at Transylvania University and then to Harvard for further study.He was not a publishing scholar, and I asked him once why he didn't write a book. He replied that he would rather teach his students than publish, and I believe he was sincere in this. On the other hand, he entered the profession at Tufts with a Ph.D. at the age of 37, and it may be that his late start impeded scholarly production. He was held to be perhaps the most scholarly professor at Tufts by students and colleagues alike, and his interests in life and his approach to things were always primarily scholarly. He was modest, and humble, to the extent that he rarely spoke of his past and his accomplishments. He endeavored to construct a life of reason in the classical sense of Socrates and Cicero. He wrote of himself and truly that he was engaged in a "search for general humanistic principles of life and history . . . constantly going on in class and lecture and every other contact." I quote from the resolution adopted by the Tufts faculty upon his retirement: "In his teaching he displayed to a remarkable degree the best qualities of native scholarship: honesty, vitality, and love of truth. With modest assurance and quiet candor, Professor Wyatt taught more than his subject; patient of ignorance but never of folly, sympathetic but exacting, he induced his pupils, as he did his friends, to regard life as education and education as life, making good judgment the test of success in either."

  • Sources:

    Ann. Rep. ASCSA 81 (1961-2) 17; personal knowledge.

  • Author: William F. Wyatt, Jr.