Gareth Morgan Memorial Endowed Excellence Fund
Gareth Morgan, Professor of Classics was educated at Oxford and began his career at The University of Texas at Austin as a visiting associate professor in 1966-67. He professed the subjects he loved in Austin and across this great state for the next thirty years. Gareth Morgan was a remarkable polymath who did not recognize the common distinctions between primary and secondary, research and teaching interests. In the Department of Classics, he was best known for his unfailing dedication to the comprehension and performance of ancient texts. He taught Greek of all periods, ancient to modern, including one of the country’s best summer intensive programs in Greek. He also taught the Welsh tongue. In language teaching he applied literally inimitable methods. Gareth prepared his students to read ancient texts accurately and fluently, always encouraging them to appreciate the sound of ‘dead’ languages which he brought back to life.
Gareth hosted daily noontime readings of Greek and Latin in his office on the ground floor of Waggener Hall unfailingly for nearly twenty years. Five or six times per academic year and several times during the season of his renowned summer intensive Greek course, Gareth and his wife Joan would host performances of Classical drama or readings of poetry at their home on Rollingwood Drive. As with the daily readings, all who were interested in Greek or Latin literature and its later influence were welcome. An undergraduate Xanthias would cherish the opportunity to have a hand in the whipping of his professor Dionysus. The highlights of both the readings and the performances were Professor Morgan’s own lively and impeccable pronunciation of Greek and Latin verse and his obvious rapport with all who shared his passion. He also had a sly wit in casting the parts played by faculty and students, many of whom came to know themselves differently because of the experience of one or several Gareth productions.
Professor Morgan was an important advocate for better teaching of Latin in Texas elementary and secondary schools. A great number of Texas Latin teachers were trained by him. He taught the required graduate course in the teaching of Latin with scrupulous care for pedagogy in all its facets. Many others learned of better ways to teach Latin through his work with the Texas Classical Association—he edited the organization’s journal for fifteen years. His visits to schools throughout the state are still remembered as inspirational occasions.
A long-time colleague of Gareth’s at the University remarked: ”The more I think about the remarkable question of why the largest and one of the best Classics programs in North America developed in Austin over the last quarter century, the more I come up with Gareth as the answer. He was central to everything the rest of us did, providing a unity with his absolute devotion to the one thing we really had in common—the word, the spoken word. He didn’t determine what others did, but he reminded them why they were doing it. The underrated virtue of persistence, of keeping at it, of being there, he possessed as none other. Years came and went and Homer and Vergil were always read at noon, and Greek tragedy and comedy always performed on fairly frequent Fridays, and the elements of Greek forever implanted in the summers. The ritual went on, the continuous celebration of the department’s meaning, the things we all, at whatever remove, still shared. This was important, too. Everyone was welcome. Come in and pick up a book and read what you can; desire, not competence, was the criterion. If Gareth unified the horizontal splaying of the Classics, the specialties, he overrode the vertical hierarchy, too. Students, faculty, alumni, interested bystanders—all acted together in Morgan’s Saturnalia.”
Gareth Morgan’s passion for theater also led him to play many roles on the local stage. Again with his wife Joan, he stood as the unwavering force for weekly Sunday readings of Shakespeare that operated according to the same all-inclusive and inviting principles that guided his noontime readings of Latin and Greek and his performances and readings of the Greek and Latin classics.
One of Gareth Morgan’s continuing contributions to UT Austin was his posthumous donation to The University of Texas at Austin library system of some 2500 books and scholarly journals in Classics, medieval and modern Greek, Welsh, folklore, and the general study of language.