Friend of the Department – Fred Zimmerman

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Fred Zimmerman and his wife Martha are leaving the Chapel Hill area and moving to Providence, RI after many years of association with the UNC Classics Department.  Fred was the editor of the Asian edition of the Wall Street Journal, based in Hong Kong, before moving to Chapel Hill in 1988.  He started his work in Murphey Hall with Latin 1 and Greek 1 in 1999, and as a post-bacc took 30 courses for credit over 11 years.  His classics career began when, looking for something to read on a flight to London, he picked a translation of an author he’d barely heard of, Thucydides.  As a long-time political junkie, he found the writer’s grasp of politics profound.  “When we get home I think I’ll go up to UNC and take a Greek course so I can read this in the original,” he told his wife.  He now recognizes that as one of the most naive statements imaginable.

Eventually he took graduate courses in authors such as Lucretius, Plato, Tacitus, and his favorite, Thucydides, whose work he thinks every journalist should read through at least once.  With guidance from Emily Baragwanath in the early going, he’s written about 80 pages of a book about Thucydides, and says he often wonders when or if he will finish it.

Acting largely on the recommendations of Jerzy Linderski, Fred purchased many books for the department library, which was always one of his favorite places to study. “When I think in years to come of the Classics Department, the library is what will leap first to mind,” he says.  “It’s our marvelous little secret–an absolute gem.”

Fred hopes to establish connections with Brown University classicists in Providence.  “Maybe I can manage an interstate transfer of that nebulous title, Friend of the Department,” he says.  “Otherwise, I’ll settle of the way a Classics grad student once introduced me to a prospective student: ‘This is Fred Zimmerman.  Fred is….well, just ask somebody about Fred; I’m late for class.'”