How to be a scholar

Posted by Rebecca Moore - 06 May, 2014

perrySenior Perry Scalfano shared these remarks at a farewell party for retiring Latin teacher Cathie Dunar.

When I think of Dr. Dunar, “Dottora” as I often call her, I think of a teacher I have respected and appreciated for four years.

Four years ago a Freshman named Quintus, with very little experience with Foreign Languages and a lot of books on Roman mythology and emperors, came into her Latin I class. In those four years, Dottora showed me how beautiful and how frustrating a language can be, from the soaring grace of Vergil’s dactylic hexameter, to the drudgery of case-ending memorization and endless translations.

She showed me that there were people out there who were interested in ideas, not the age of the person presenting them, both in our own interactions and with the Archeological Institute chapter here to which she introduces all her students. She taught me that scholarship was not always fun and fancy-free, that some of it, like an awesome thesis edited by a man with a poor grasp of the English language and occasional bouts of condescending chauvinism, who will remain nameless, is hard work.

She also gave me a chance to see the wider world I had always dreamed of, but never really seen, when she invited me to come on a tour of Croatia with her over the summer following my sophomore year. That trip I will remember for the rest of my life, that meant more than just seeing a few Roman ruins and ancient statues, although that too was incredible, it was an opportunity to explore a culture that I knew so little about before the trip, and it was an opportunity to do it with someone so knowledgeable, but still there to learn too.

perry dunarThat’s what is so wonderful about Dr. Dunar as a teacher: she knows so much, but she seems to spend a lot more time thinking of all there is left to learn, all the places that are still left to go, than she does about what she’s already accomplished.

She’s willing to admit she couldn’t drink the cow’s blood in the Maasai tent in Nigeria, even though it’s a little embarrassing. For someone like her, someone who so embodies the lifelong learner, it’s only an admission that there’s yet another thing left to do in life, that in a world of infinite possibilities that’s one she has the possibility to try again someday.

I guess what I learned most from her, is how to be a scholar, how to keep on that learning path no matter in what career you find yourself, whether you’re teaching Spanish in California or writing technical documentation for Intergraph, or when you find yourself about to embark a new chapter as a full-time archaeologist after a lot of great years at Randolph.

Dottora has always been one of my favorite teachers, while I’m sorry in some ways that she won’t be at Randolph to engage future classes, there’s a selfish part of me that’s just glad she waited until I was done.

Topics: Academics, languages, Latin, Relationships, teachers, the world

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