Robert W. Ulery, Jr.

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By Lauren Albright on August 25, 2015.

This evening, ladies and gentlemen, it is the privilege of Eta Sigma Phi to honor an institution at Wake Forest University. Robert W. Ulery, Jr. was a member of the faculty at Wake Forest for forty years before his retirement in 2011, and he has not held a position at any other academic institution during his career. Such constancy is rare in modern academia, let alone the larger society, but it is a theme in the career of our honoree and in his contributions to our field. Professor Ulery received all his academic degrees from Yale University—B.A. in 1966, M.A. in 1968 and Ph.D. in 1971, and in that same year he began his career at Wake Forest, with Richard M. Nixon as President (of the country not the university). Through excellence in teaching, contributions in scholarship, and service to the campus community and larger discipline he steadily advanced through the cursus honorum at Wake. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1978 and Professor in 1989, serving as chair of the department for eleven years during his time on the faculty. There have also been certain constants in his diverse set of research interests. Among the classical authors themselves, Professor Ulery has established long ties with the Roman historians, Sallust and Tacitus in particular. For both Sallust and Tacitus he has compiled and written the entries in the Catalogus Translationum et Commentariorum (Mediaeval and Renaissance Latin Translations and Commentaries: Annotated Lists and Guides). The entry for Sallust was co-authored with Patricia J. Osmond. His work in this series demonstrates two other of his intellectual pursuits—manuscript tradition and the Renaissance. His most extensive publication is a three-volume translation of Pietro Bembo’s History of Venice. Some of us may remember his Presidential address at the 2009 meeting of Classical Association of the Middle West and South, entitled “Vox Humana, non solum Romana: Neo-Latin Literature and Our Heritage.” In keeping with his study of Renaissance humanism, Professor Ulery is an advocate of the active use of Latin in the classroom and published a Latin translation of Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium” in our own Nuntius. He is also virtuoso organist and has on occasion combined his musical and classical skills to offer recitals, such as Vox Humana, Vox Organi, presented to the Southern Section of CAMWS. I have already mentioned his service to the department as chair and his term as president of CAMWS. He also served as president of the North Carolina Classical Association, president of the Southern Section of CAMWS, and secretary-treasurer of American Association for Neo-Latin Studies. He is presently a member of the Advisory Board of the Repertorium Pomponianum. His commitment to his students has been recognized by his institution, where he received the award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising in 1997, and the Jon Rinehart Award for Excellence in Teaching just last year. One of his colleagues described this commitment as follows: “Rob’s distinction as a teacher was his long-standing commitment to quality instruction within the liberal arts tradition. This instruction took place inside the classroom and out. He was an inspiration for many in the way that he lived a life devoted to things of mind and spirit. He was particularly effective in leading student groups in the Venice program, where so many of his interests came together. His great life-long passion (is) the Latin language. He love(s) the language, love(s) speaking it, love(s) teaching it.” My emphasis on the earnest and steadfast endeavor in Professor Ulery’s career is not to say that it has been without excitement. He was awarded a grant to investigate archaeological sites in communist Yugoslavia and a fellowship to rummage through the manuscript library at Yale. Professor Ulery’s relationship with Eta Sigma Phi dates to 1962, when he was presented with the Eta Sigma Phi award as the best senior Latin student in Goshen, Indiana. It is fitting therefore this evening that we make Eta Sigma Phi another theme in this distinguished career and present him with the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award.

by David Sick