Alumni Spotlight

Please enjoy reading about what a couple of our alumni from the Department of Classical Languages are doing since their graduation from Wake Forest University.  You will find a wide variety of professional pursuits as we touch base with former students, and we hope this feature will aid your own thinking of the manifold possibilities that await you as you pursue this versatile and profound degree.

Jon Bolton, Class of 1973, Private Wealth Management

Question: What are you doing today and how did studying Classics prepare you for this?

For the last 32+ years I have had the privilege to work with clients and families in the financial services industry, advising them on life-planning issues as well as managing their portfolios.  Prior to that I taught and coached high school students for 5 years.

After graduating from WFU, I pursued an MAT at UNC-CH in Classics with the intention to teach and coach.  The study of Classics was a real door-opener.  While demographics may have played a role in the process (Classics teachers are always dying off), many high school administrators were eager to give interviews.  The principals gave great weight  to Classics.  And as a result of that respect that they had for the breadth of the subject matter, I am convinced that these administrators were willing to provide me with additional challenges of teaching AP courses outside my main discipline.

In regard to my current career the linkage between the study of Classics and portfolio management is less direct, yet that might be the unhidden beauty of the discipline.  Here are several ancillary points to consider:

·         Daily and thorough preparation (aspects of pedagogy)
·         Willingness to think in an unconventional manner and challenge the status quo and look at the world differently ( training from the philosophers)
·         Ability to read widely, listen, comprehend, respond, converse cogently, and speak publically (aspects of philology) 

Question:  What do you perceive are the benefits of studying Classics?

The benefits of studying Classics are multiple.  Over the years due to the nature of my profession and personal “hard-wiring”, I have become intrigued by how complex systems are related and what we can learn about those systems from what we already know.

For example, Moneyball (Michael Lewis’ novel) was an absolutely fascinating study about how a team with one of the lowest payrolls in MLB was able to compete successfully against the wealthiest teams, such as the NY Yankees.  It was a wonderful study of how out-of-the box thinking could identify “mispriced”  talent (i.e., undervalued assets) and then put together a system that utilized those players in an innovative way.   The application to portfolio management was not too big of a leap to make:  classical investment masters such as Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, Shelby and Chris Davis, Sir John Templeton, et al. have been doing this for years and years.

That is a long way of saying that the study of Classics have provided a “passport” that allows transference from one discipline to another.

Since my primary concentration was the study of Latin, I really developed an appreciation for the construction and richness of the language, which readily transferred to the understanding of English literature and was very helpful in the development of writing and thinking skills.

Latin’s etymology remains useful to me today; still a word “geek” who enjoys the Saturday and Sunday crossword puzzles. 

Question: what advice do you have for current Classics students?

Some of the best advice I ever received came from a colleague of our former firm.  He was pursuing a Ph.D. in philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and his advisor (who would later become Chancellor of UNC-CH) knew that this young man was intrigued by investing and encouraged him to pursue what he loved. The study of philosophy would serve as a foundation for his thought process and a “touchstone” for his future decision-making.  The advisor and student also understood that (for him) the pursuit of “broad-based knowledge” was more energizing “than deep knowledge.”  Some 20 or 25 years later the former Ph.D. student would be recognized by Morningstar as a mutual fund manager of the decade and by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top investors of the 20th century.  In the meantime he helped found the Santa Fe Institute, getting back to his roots in philosophic studies.  (For years he also employed a Ph.D. in Classics on his research team.)

  • Pursue what you love.
  • Utilize the tools and experiences to craft a rich life (e.g., study of Classics).
  • Choose breadth of knowledge over depth of knowledge.
  • Practice “sophrosyne”.

Question: how have other areas of your life been shaped by studying the Classics?

At present I am involved on the outside periphery (and if circumstances permit, may become more deeply involved later) with a project that takes “classical virtues” and applies them to business management.  The lead movers have written several books on the subject, taught the subject in their graduate business school, and now are making application in corporate America.

Anne Glenn, class of 2006, Latin teacher:

Question: What are you doing today and how did studying Classics prepare you for this?

Anne: Since my graduation in 2006 from WFU, I have been a Latin teacher in various schools across North Carolina.  I’m currently teaching levels I through AP at Mt. Tabor High School here in Winston-Salem because my husband and I loved Wake Forest and Winston-Salem so much as undergrads!  I double majored in Greek and Latin with no intention of becoming a high school teacher until my senior year, but I simply couldn’t stop reading Latin and knew I had to continue in the field of Classics.  Clearly, studying the Classics turned me into a Latin teacher because I found such joy in studying the ancient world.

Question: In your opinion, what are the benefits of studying Classics?

Anne: Studying the Classics is not just about the Romans and the Greeks.  Studying the Classics is more like studying the human condition and what it means to be a human being.  By learning Latin and Greek, we are able to have conversations with people who have been dead for thousands of years and to understand how they thought.  Moreover, it is not possible to simply study the ancient languages; you must delve into their culture, history, philosophy, and every other facet of life in order to get a clear understanding of what these Greeks and Romans were trying to say.  What I love about the Classics is that it is all-encompassing [interdisciplinary].  As a student, I came to understand more about myself and our modern world by reading Homer, debating Plato’s philosophy, and studying ancient tragedy.  It is amazing how we can feel the same emotions and encounter the same problems as these people from so long ago.

Question: What advice do you have for current students of Classics/Classical Languages?

Anne: Take as many classes as you can and do all the extra readings!  Seriously.  I found that the more work I put into the class, the more I enjoyed it.  You can do anything with a Classics degree, because a Classics degree will prepare you to be analytical, logical, observational, and appreciative of the whole picture.  So don’t be shy to take the courses you love and make Classics your major.

Question: How have other areas of your life been shaped by studying the Classics?

Anne: I’m a bit of an anomaly since the Classics have totally shaped my entire profession.  I have devoted my adult life to spreading the love of Classics and to teaching high-schoolers about the wonders of Latin.  I did not always think that this would be the case, for I distinctly remember thinking in high school as a Latin I student that teaching Latin must be the most boring job ever.  But take it from me, it’s worth pursuing.  And it’s certainly not boring.  The more you learn about the Classics, the more addicting it becomes.