Born in Rhode Island and raised in Florida, Michele Valerie Ronnick did not discover Latin until her senior year at Sarasota Senior High School, when the French teacher retired and Dr. Ronnick’s brother persuaded his sister to replace the empty spot in her schedule with Latin. Her fate was sealed, however, and she was already on her way to becoming a Latinist when she went on to win second place in the grammar contest at the district Latin Forum that year. After earning her B.A. at the University of South Florida, Dr. Ronnick taught Latin for several years in Jacksonville, where her students were district and state chariot champions for consecutive years. While her teaching certification remains valid to this day, Dr. Ronnick went on to earn an MA in Latin at the University of Florida and then a Ph.D from Boston University, where she wrote her doctoral dissertation on Cicero’s Paradoxa Stoicorum under the direction of the illustrious Meyer Reinhold.
After receiving her doctorate in 1990 Dr. Ronnick taught first at Pennsylvania State University and then at Iowa State University before accepting a position at Wayne State University in Detroit in 1993, when she has taught ever since and has led a very active career.
Her research interests are wide ranging and include classical philology, textual criticism, classical tradition in English and American letters as well as a special study of classics and people of African descent. The impressive list of her papers, articles, and books runs more than thirty pages in the curriculum vitae.
Dr. Ronnick has received numerous teaching awards. These include one from the American Philological Association in 1998, another from the Detroit Classical Association in 2000, and two from Wayne State University first in 1998 and again in 2010. She has also been recognized for her scholarship with the Classical and Modern Literature’s Incentive Award for Younger Scholars in 1994, the Best Article for the Year 2002 by the Women’s Classical Caucus and an Outreach Award from the American Philological Association in 2006. Her indefatigable service to the profession has been recognized several times by the CAMWS Committee for the Promotion of Latin and she served as CAMWS President in 2009-2010. In 2002 she was also given the CAMWS Ovatio. You might even ask her about the honorable mention she received in the American Philological Association’s Cartoon Contest in 2008!
Dr. Ronnick has also been an active promoter of Eta Sigma Phi. She is a member of Zeta Theta chapter of Eta Sigma Phi at Penn State University, which she founded and where she initiated Joe Paterno into our society. She is also an honorary member of Epsilon Chi at her alma mater, the University of South Florida. She was also instrumental in founding Zeta Xi at Iowa State and Zeta Omicron at Wayne State University.
In particular, however, we honor her tonight for her life-long efforts to celebrate the contributions of African Americans to the study of Classics. We especially recognize her autobiography of William Sanders Scarborough, who was probably the first African American classical scholar. Born into slavery in 1852, Scarborough served as president of the Wilberforce University between 1908 and 1920. She is particularly proud to have been recognized by officials from both the city of Macon and from Bibb County, GA where Scarborough was born with a “Key to the City” and a resolution passed by the County Board of Commissioners. In addition her own home town, the city of Sarasota, FL, named a day honoring her for this work. Dr. Ronnick has also produced a pamphlet on the first three African American members of the American Philological Association and an outstanding photographic exhibit on Twelve Black Classicists, which has been touring the country for more than a decade. It is no exaggeration to say that few people in the United States know more about the contributions of African American to classical studies than Michele Ronnick and even fewer have worked harder than she has to promote these contributions in the wider community in schools, libraries, colleges and universities around the country.
For all these reasons Eta Sigma Phi honors Michele Valerie Ronnick tonight with a Lifetime Achievement Award ne plus ultra.