William Bernard

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William Stanley Bernard received his AB degree from UNC in 1900, served briefly as librarian for the University and instructor of English, and in 1901 became instructor of Greek. He completed his PhD in 1904 with a dissertation titled “Skopas: The Artist and Man,” directed by Eben Alexander, and served in the department from then continuously until his death in May of 1938. He was active in University committees and administration, as well as “one of the village’s pioneer autoists” and an organizer of the first golf course in Chapel Hill, according to the faculty memorial resolution of May 3, 1939.

Bernard’s classroom manner is sketched out in a “Reminiscence” by Robert B. House, a teacher in the Department of Classics and later chancellor of the University, that was published in the Chapel Hill Weekly for May 19, 1963 (page 8):

Professor Bernard was the ardent apostle [of the study of Greek]. He and Robert Frost were in agreement that ‘passionate preference’ is the witness of God in a person and the source of human progress. Bully Bernard [as Bernard was known to his students] had a passionate preference for Greek.  He held us to the language. He would not stop until we got that right. He was emotional and quick tempered. Our ignorance made him boil. He would throw out his arms in the gesture known in those days of detachable cuffs as ‘shooting the cuffs.’ He always carried a piece of chalk in his right hand. He would turn and hurl this in a glancing blow at the blackboard. And he would launch into a lyric protest against our ignorance. This exhibition never bothered us at all. We knew he was putting on an act to emphasize a point. I think this is the way he got nick-named ‘Bully.’

He could cool off as readily as he came to a boil, once the linguistic point was made. I noticed that the bell never caught him in his wrath. He never wounded except to correct, and he invariably said a healing word even as he gave a rebuke. All you had to do was to show interest and work hard. He never let a serious student down.

He opened up for us the feeling, the thought, the civilizing effort, the art, and the manners of the Greeks. It was a lyric experience of love and reverence to hear him say ‘The Greeks.’ …  He taught us Socrates by way of Xenophon in the fall semester. He taught us Homer in the spring semester. I had been well trained in the language at Warrenton under John Graham, but Bully on Poetry, Philosophy, and Art was a thrilling new world.