For 38 years, Prof. Mary Sturgeon has taught and researched Greek art history and classical archaeology at UNC. Although her main home was in the Art Department, she has filled an invaluable role for our department, shepherding numerous undergraduates and graduate students through the rigors of academia inside and outside of the classroom. Her retiring from the university will leave a great void in our department. In recognition of her contributions to our department, we asked her to share her experiences below. 

Mary Sturgeon
Professor of Art

Mary SturgeonMy educational background differs from that of most Art Department faculty, as I began my career as a Classics major (University of Minnesota). I got hooked on archaeology by taking first year Greek with Bill McDonald, who focused on the Greek Bronze Age. For graduate work I went to Bryn Mawr College in Classical Archaeology and Greek, where I concentrated on Greek sculpture and painting, my teaching areas at UNC.

My first position was in the Art Department at Oberlin College (1972-1977). At the outset it was made clear that the department wanted an art historian, not an archaeologist, so I audited all departmental courses. When the UNC position became available in 1977 I was delighted. This position gave me the opportunity to teach in an institution with fine Art and Classics Departments, full graduate programs in both departments, a major library, and the opportunity for more specialized teaching. Also, there was a broader range of faculty in the area. Our sister campuses at Duke and NC State and the area museums — the Ackland Art Museum at UNC, the North Carolina Museum of Art, and the Duke Museum of Art— greatly enhanced possibilities for fruitful interactions with colleagues.

During my early years at UNC the senior and retired faculty, Robert Broughton, Berthe Marti, and Emmy Richardson, with her husband Larry at Duke, formed a great draw to Murphey Hall. These scholars were always eager to talk about their early travels in Turkey and Italy. I have had wonderful colleagues in the Classics Department and the Research Labs of Archaeology. In the middle years my close companions were Gerhard Koeppel and Ken Sams, and in later years Classics provided me with a series of excellent, new colleagues.

One great benefit to teaching at UNC has been the excellence and diversity of the students. Typically, students in my courses came from both the departments of art and classics at UNC as well as at Duke, and occasionally from NC State. They brought varied interests, backgrounds, and expertise, making for lively discussion.

In recent years the teaching of visual material has witnessed great changes. At Oberlin, for example, we had two carousels for 35mm slides and two supersized carousels for large glass slides. The podium had a board with multiple switches which resembled the control panel of an airplane! The arrival of the internet has caused major transformations. The shift from slides to digitized images, and the scanning and development of powerpoints has taken much time and money. Once done, however, the benefits are significant. The shift from individually-developed course web sites to campus-generated sites, such as Sakai, has benefited students and faculty alike. Years ago we posted study photographs in the hallway for Art History surveys and could participate in the progress of those courses through time. The photos have since been scanned and discarded, but powerpoints can be uploaded to Sakai, and we can access internet sites in class. The increased variety of images and information that can be provided on powerpoints has been positive. The elimination of the Slide Room, however, means that faculty see each other less frequently if at all. Conversations that were once developed while faculty were organizing slides on a light table have been lost, unfortunately.

One advantage of my close connection with Classics has been the availability of colleagues close at hand with whom I could consult on questions of Greek and Latin epigraphy, history, literature, and religion. In addition, faculty talk about their research during noon-time talks, and graduate student conferences, such as the 2014 joint UNC-University College London conference and the annual joint conference with Duke, make for rich dialogue.

In the future I will miss classroom teaching and regular talks with students, but I view “retirement” as a time when I will just stop doing the “teaching thing’ and have more time to devote to the many research projects that are stacked up on my desk. I also look forward to having more time to play flute and piccolo in the Chapel Hill Philharmonia and various chamber music groups.