Mike Taylor, 1947-2013

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.

Mike Taylor with ESP members

Mike Taylor discussed Classics over pizza with member of ESP last spring.

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.


The Graduate School recently recognized Elizabeth Robinson, PhD ’13, for her many academic achievements and research experience in Italy.

Robinson, a member of The Graduate School’s Royster Society of Fellows, spent the last four years researching her dissertation on the ancient town Larinum, living on-site in the small village of Larino that rests on top of the ancient settlement. In the fall, she will begin her position as an assistant professor at the Duke University Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome.

To learn about Robinson’s experiences in Italy, visit The Graduate School’s website. READ MORE >>


Henry Ross, a senior Classics major with a minor in biology and a Morehead-Cain Scholar, has been awarded a competitive fellowship from the Henry Luce Foundation to live and learn in Asia for a year after he graduates this spring.

Henry Ross


The Luce Scholars Program selects 15-18 college seniors from a national pool of nominated candidates based on the students’ leadership and academic achievements. Fellows live and work in Asia for a year with the intent to gain exposure to the content as a benefit to their future careers. Ross plans to enter law school.

“I don’t yet know the specifics of my position or location in Asia, but I hope to gain valuable insight into foreign arrest, adjudication, and incarceration policies,” Ross explained.

Ross is completing his senior thesis on the depiction of the bee society in the Fourth Book of Vergil’s Georgics, one of the most challenging poems in Latin, under the direction of James J. O’Hara.

“Despite his busy schedule, he works hard, writes well, and responds well to all my comments on his drafts,” commented Prof. O’Hara.

“Henry is one of our star students–he is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and he has worked on the Student Honor Court for years,” added Sharon L. James. “We are delighted to see him win this very competitive, prestigious scholarship.”

Additionally, Ross has completed graduate-level coursework in Latin and won the 2012 Preston H. and Miriam Epps Prize in Greek Studies. Beyond Carolina, he has taught in Zimbabwe and researched in Cape Town, South Africa.

“Study in the Classics Department has been my most valuable academic experience at Carolina, and vital in my preparation and selection for the Luce,” Ross reflected. “Like the department, the Luce Foundation embraces a holistic study of language, history, literature, and culture. In Asia, and in my legal career, I will rely on my background in Classics to make connections and express my ideas. The professors here who have deepened my interest in the ancient world have also exemplified rigor, integrity, collegiality, humility, attention to detail, and commitment to learning. I hope to follow their example and put to use the skills I have learned as I pursue work and study in criminal law.”

Aside from his academic work, Ross has interned for the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C., and now works as the student body’s deputy student attorney general and solicitor general.

We congratulate him for this significant achievement!