We regret to announce that Michael W. Taylor, an alumnus and friend of the department, passed away the morning of Sept. 29, 2013. During his long association with the department, he was known for his great contributions to the field of Classics and his many talents and generosity.
Memorial services will be held 2 p.m. Sat., Oct. 5, 2013, at the University Baptist Church, 100 S. Columbia St., Chapel Hill, NC.
Dr. Taylor joined the department as an undergraduate majoring in Classics. He distinguished himself by winning the Eben Alexander Prize in Greek in 1968, and completed an honors thesis Anatolia and Archaic Greece under the direction of Edwin L. Brown.
Next, Dr. Taylor earned his Ph.D. in Classics at Harvard University. While a student, he excavated with Emily Vermeule at the archaeological site of Toumba tou Skourou, an important Bronze Age town on Morphou Bay in Cyprus. He also was an alumni and fellow of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.
Dr. Taylor completed his dissertation under the direction of Gregory Nagy. Dr. Taylor remembered the process fondly for allowing him to draw from his experiences as a son of Southern Baptist missionaries and a naval officer in the Vietnam War. He later published his Ph.D. dissertation. The Tyrant Slayers: The Heroic Image in Fifth Century B.C. Athenian Art and Politics (New York: Arno Press 1981) is now in its second edition and still widely used.
After completing his Ph.D., Dr. Taylor returned to Chapel Hill to broaden his interests. By 1978, he had earned his J.D. from UNC, and established his own practice in Albemarle County to focus on legal issues concerning civil rights, health care, public policy, and the environment. He and his wife, The Honorable Susan Chandler Taylor, also remained active members of the department.
“In spite of his professional obligations throughout the state, Mike was very active in the Department of Classics, engaging us with his extraordinary grace, wit, erudition, and knowledge of archaeology,” Donald Haggis, Nicholas A. Cassas Term Professor of Greek Studies, recalled.
The alumnus was a constant presence in the department, frequently attending and leading Brown Bag Talks and Graduate Proseminars in addition to attending departmental events. Last year he led a well-received proseminar on “The Classics and the American Founders,” drawing from his expertise in the Classics and U.S. history. He also spent an evening with the undergraduate honors society, Eta Sigma Phi, discussing Classics (pictured above).
“He was very interested to learn about our academic interests, and even wrote down our email addresses so that he could stay in touch,” Luke Hagemann, former president of ESP, recalled of the evening ESP spent with Dr. Taylor, who did keep in touch with Hagemann.
“Dr. Taylor was a very kind and generous individual. He enthusiastically spent several hours on the phone advising me when I was debating between applying to Law School or to an Ancient History PhD program,” Hagemann said.
This summer, Dr. Taylor and his son visited Prof. Haggis’s site, the Azoria Project, where Dr. Taylor explored the site and passed his time with Prof. Haggis and his former professor, William C. West, professor emeritus.
“I have lost a close friend, but I treasure the memories of last summer in Greece, where Mike, I, and Donald Haggis visited sites, talked about excavations, scholarly problems, and everything under the sun,” Prof. West reflected.
Members of the department are left with such fond memories of Dr. Taylor.
“I am grateful to have known him for as long as I did, and only wish that there had been more time,” Hagemann concluded.
Dr. Taylor is survived by his wife and three sons.