2003 Metcalf Cup & Prize
“She has the rare gift of bringing the ‘dead language’ to life,” a student said of Professor Patricia Johnson, and she “makes learning Latin and studying it impossibly fun.” Peers and students laud her as a likeable, passionate, gifted scholar, and a tireless, patient advisor. An innovator seeking to refine and improve the classics curricula at the University, she spearheaded the creation of an extensive Web-based inventory of digital images of the ancient world, available to department faculty.
Winner of the College of Arts and Sciences Gitner Award for distinguished teaching in 2001, Professor Johnson sums up her approach to teaching: “I am infatuated with the classical world and its literatures; I have yet to find a topic in my field that fails to fascinate me in some way, and I attempt to communicate this passion to my students each time we meet.”
Professor Johnson credits her classroom success as an educator to having found the balance between palatability of subject matter—what she calls “entertainment value”—and the rigor needed to master the complex material. She measures that success first by evaluating if students have learned and understood the material well enough to work with it and draw conclusions, and second by whether they have become engaged enough to develop a curiosity about ancient cultural ancestors and a true appreciation of how the contemporary world fits into history. “The students,” she says, “are not graded by this second measure; I am.”
Joining the Boston University Classical Studies faculty in 1996, Professor Johnson previously taught at the College of the Holy Cross, the University of Southern California and Cornell University. She earned a bachelor’s in history and a master’s in classics from Cornell, and a Ph.D. in classics from the University of Southern California. She now lives in Wellesley, Mass.