Weekend Reading: Dis Manibus

It’s a difficult post to write today.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter or who have read the OU Classical Studies Blog this week will already know that Dr Trevor Fear from Open University Classics died a few weeks ago. But to others this will come as a shock, not least because Trevor was a familiar figure on OU modules until just a few months ago.

You can read the full OU tribute on the Classical Studies Blog. It talks about how important Trevor was to the Department, and how far his professional influence extended. That’s all true: I think we’ve all been realising over the last few weeks just how much we relied on his judgement and calm good sense.

Trevor was important to the Department as a whole; but he was also important to me. He was my Line Manager for the last few years, so I went to him whenever I had a problem that I couldn’t solve myself – and I could trust him to fix it, because Trevor was the person who found a way through things. He was my boss when I worked for several years as the editorial assistant on the New Voices Journal: he would send me articles, I’d sort out the formatting and referencing, and then we’d talk about what more could be done to make those articles as good as they could possibly be. He wasn’t just looking at the article: he was also thinking about the author, and about what we could do for them.

But the most remarkable thing about Trevor was that he made space for people.

One day a couple of years ago he contacted me and said ‘The Faculty is looking for Scholarship Projects: things that we could research in our own teaching. I wondered if you had any ideas’. This was unprecedented. Nobody had ever asked me if I had an idea – nor would they have listened if I’d come to them with my ideas, because I’m just a tutor.

That was how our Relaxed Tutorial Project came into being. I told Trevor my top idea, and he made it happen. It turned into something that he believed in too, and we talked a lot about how we could use it to find ways to make things better for students. I couldn’t have set up the project without his support – but more than that, I wouldn’t even have been able to see it as a potential project if he hadn’t come to me and asked the question. The project wouldn’t have existed, in any form, without Trevor.

In my 20 years of working in and with universities, I’ve never met anyone else with Trevor’s ability to appreciate people for who they are, regardless of their circumstances or position. I saw him do the same thing with prospective MA students too, year after year: he looked for passion and determination in applicants, not qualifications or background – and he was always right!

Trevor and I rarely met in the real world, or even talked on the phone. But we corresponded almost every day, and sometimes in our conversations we swapped stories. Gradually we found out that we came from similar circumstances, with siblings who also became academics; and we had run into similar challenges later in life. We’d encountered some of the same people at university when we were younger, and had much the same reaction to them. He gave me a lot of good advice, which I acted on. We weren’t friends beyond work, but we were the best kind of colleagues.

It’s funny how you can miss somebody that you hardly ever met. I miss Trevor every day. His death is not my tragedy: that belongs to his family and friends. But his passing has left a gap in my life that I don’t think anyone else can fill.

Maybe that’s the way it should be.

This week from around the classical internet


Roman mosaic under Colchester shops – BBC

Rare coin returned to Greece – The New York Times

50 years of Vindolanda Tablets – Chronicle Live

Venus in rubbish dump – Heritage Daily

British auctioneer in fraudulent coin sale – LBC

Comment and opinion

Have we got mummies wrong? – BBC Culture

Vindolanda Tablet anniversary – Vindolanda Charitable Trust

Colossus of Rhodes – The Collector

Augusta Rauricorum – Roamin’ The Empire

How the ancient Greeks defined citizenship – The Spectator

Women doctors from the Roman Empire – Sententiae Antiquae

The dumbest fictional law – Tales of Times Forgotten

Podcasts, video and other media

Filling in the fragments: Sappho – The American Scholar

The assassination of Hypatia – Killing Time with Rebecca Rideal

Atlantis – The Rest Is History

From Classical Studies Memes for Hellenistic Teens

4 thoughts on “Weekend Reading: Dis Manibus

  1. Cora Beth,

    I am so sorry to hear about the loss of such a dear friend. My thoughts are with you and all that knew him. I’m sure he would be proud of the legacy that he has left behind with people like yourself to continue.

    Best wishes

    Michelle Robertson A276


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