Leaving St Andrews – Greg Wolf

After 16 years at the School of Classics, St. Andrews, Prof. Greg Wolf is leaving to become the Director of the Institute of Classical Studies in London.

I meant to write this blog post a month ago, and instead I am typing it in the hours before I take the Caledonian Sleeper to London to begin my new job as Director of the Institute of Classical Studies. One of the bad habits of mid-career academics is doing everything at the last possible moment. I am excited about the new post. The ICS, more than fifty years old, is now part of a School of Advanced Study being centrally funded as a humanities hub. There is lots to play for and it is a fantastic chance to be at the centre of all this, and to keep Classics in the centre too, where it belongs.

All the same the last sixteen years here will be hard to beat. Classics at St Andrews has always been a class act. I am not going to name the famous, and now mostly deceased, classicists who built the subject here. But I have met many of their pupils, and some of their junior colleagues, now retiring themselves, and just a few words with them makes clear how long this has been a wonderful place to learn and teach about the Greeks and Romans and all their works. No one I know thinks REF results and NSS scores are more than a crude tool for measuring university departments. But in preparing for three rounds of research assessment here I have read enough of my colleagues’ research to know how amazing it is, I have listened in awe at enough research seminars and conferences to see how close to the cutting edge they are, and as I travel around the country and abroad as well I always hear praise for those I work with. It has been a privilege.

All good university departments are in constant change, recruiting the best they can and watching as they move off to new challenges. That is the norm for undergraduates of course. Sixteen years is four generations of MA students. I have been lucky to supervise and exam some amazing graduate students too. Offhand I can think of recent St Andrews PhDs teaching on four continents. Faculty come and go too, if we are generally recycled rather more slowly. Yet only a handful of colleagues remain who were in the School when I arrived. Time to move on, obviously.

What have I learned in my time here? Some good tips. If you are taking a field trip to visit a whisky distillery and a Roman marching camp don’t visit them in that order. Try not to lead industrial action while you are one of those charged by the University with frustrating it. Learn when a conversation is better than an e-mail. Make time to read. Lot of lessons I haven’t learned very well, like try to concentrate on one research project at a time. Most of all that it is the people that make a place, not the institutions. I have had a wonderful time hear because of the people I have spent it with. One of the joys of academic life is that it is so easy to stay in touch, so I won’t say goodbye. But it is an appropriate moment to say thank you, and cheers!

Prof Greg Wolf, Director of the Institute of Classical Studies

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