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Classicist Jeffrey Henderson Elected to AAAS

Popular CAS teacher wins academic honor

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Jeffrey Henderson is among a group of 212 leaders from the humanities, arts, business, public affairs, and academia who have been named 2011 fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Photo by Fred Sway

Jeffrey Henderson, the University’s William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of Greek Language and Literature and a world-renowned classics scholar, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS).

Henderson joins an elite group of 212 leaders from the humanities, arts, business, public affairs, and academia who have been named 2011 fellows. Other new inductees include filmmaker Ken Burns, actor Daniel Day-Lewis, and singer-songwriter Paul Simon. Founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock, and other scholar-patriots, AAAS is an independent policy research center. Each year, the academy elects men and women who are “thinkers and doers” in their respective fields. Past members have included George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein.

“Jeff Henderson is a wonderful colleague and scholar,” says University President Robert A. Brown, who is also a member of the academy. “His election to the AAAS is well deserved recognition for his accomplishments and his stature in the field of classical studies.”

Henderson fell in love with Greek language and literature while an undergraduate at Kenyon College. As a freshman, he’d heard that one of the school’s best professors taught introductory Greek. He spent the following summer taking intensive language classes so that he could begin reading the classics in their original language. He earned a master’s degree and a PhD from Harvard University.

An expert in the work of the Greek classical playwright Aristophanes, Henderson says that much of his research involves “Greek drama, particularly comedy, and its social and political environment, and the history of sexuality.” His first book was a study of the use of obscene language in classical Greek literature. Now working on a critical edition of Aristophanes’ Knights, he also is general editor of the Loeb Classical Library, the world’s largest collection of classical texts and translations.

Since joining BU in 1991, Henderson has been a popular professor. He is a former chair of the College of Arts & Sciences classical studies department, and served as dean of Arts & Sciences from 2002 to 2007, when he returned to the classroom.

Next fall, Henderson, who says he especially enjoys teaching undergraduates, will teach the introductory course Greek Civilization, as well as the advanced course Greek Prose Composition.

“With graduate students, already committed professionals, my role is more trainer than teacher, while with undergraduates, I can rediscover what excites me about my field and try to excite them as well,” Henderson says. “They also offer academic diversity: in my lecture courses, I have students with all sorts of concentrations and from all the schools and colleges, each approaching the material from different perspectives and often for the first time. So the teaching challenge is great, as are the rewards.”

Arts & Sciences Dean Virginia Sapiro, herself a member of AAAS, says Henderson is “a great scholar and also a great teacher and citizen of Boston University.”

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences will formally welcome the new class of fellows at an induction ceremony in Cambridge, Mass., on October 1. A complete list of this year’s inductees is available here.

John O’Rourke can be reached at orourkej@bu.edu.

2 Comments

2 Comments on Classicist Jeffrey Henderson Elected to AAAS

  • Anonymous on 04.26.2011 at 12:03 pm

    I became a classics minor after taking a class with Professor Henderson to fulfill a humanities requirement. Congratulations on the honor, Professor! And best of luck in your future endeavors.

  • Anonymous on 04.26.2011 at 5:16 pm

    Yes, Professor Henderson is a great scholar and deserves this overdue recognition. He is also a good human being.

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