Scholarship honours pioneering archeologist

"We have come full circle," says Prof. Phillip Harding

Homer Thompson earned the first master's degree in Classics at UBC in 1927 and became one of the foremost archeologists of his generation. A recent donation by the heirs of Doris Baldwin, his sister, will help others at the university follow in his footsteps.

The Homer Armstrong Thompson Travel Scholarship in Classical Studies will assist graduate students in classical studies of the Greek and Roman world participate in archeological excavations and the study of archeological sites and museums.

Thompson grew up near Chilliwack and came to UBC at age 15. He earned a PhD at the University of Michigan in 1929 and then began his 50-year involvement with the Athenian Agora.

In 1947 he moved from the University of Toronto to the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University and served as field director of the Agora excavations until 1967. During that time he helped shape knowledge of the most celebrated monuments and moments in classical antiquity.

Thompson, who died in May, also had a distinguished record of achievement as a teacher, mentor, administrator, lecturer, author and student of ancient architecture and pottery.

Classics Prof. Robert Todd, who is preparing a history of the Classics Dept., views Thompson as a remarkable product of the university's earliest days.

"He was a member of the last graduation class at the Fairview campus, and was at Point Grey for the first two years. UBC's dedicated teachers laid the foundation for his later distinction, as they did for many other notables of the 1920s, such as the poet Earle Birney."

Thompson never forgot his time at UBC. He recalled "the remarkable high overall quality of the department that was characteristic of UBC already in those formative years," and counted it "a great privilege to have shared life with those teachers at such an impressionable age."

Canada had no teaching program in classical archeology or excavations in the Greco-Roman world, a situation that remained unchanged until the 1960s.

Prof. Phillip Harding, head of Classical, Near-Eastern and Religious Studies says, "This endowment recognizes the department's quality at a time when we have come full circle."

"In our early days we trained people such as Homer, who went on to achieve great success elsewhere," he explains. "Now UBC conducts research at excavations which include the university's own archeological sites: Anemurium in Turkey, Mytilene on Lesbos, Greece, Stymphalos in Arcadia, Greece and the Lunt Roman Fort in Britain. A future collaboration with Laval University is an excavation at Tel `Acharneh in Syria."