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Mabel Lang (1917-2010)

July 23, 2010

I just received an email from Bryn Mawr (my alma mater) telling me that Miss Lang died on Wednesday, at 92.

I took “Baby Greek” after her 1988 retirement, but Miss Lang was a legendary figure in my undergraduate days.  Bryn Mawr president Jane McAuliffe writes:

Professor Lang was raised in Hamilton, New York.  She earned her AB from Cornell (1939) and her MA (1940) and PhD (1943) from Bryn Mawr College. She commenced teaching at Bryn Mawr in 1943 and served on the faculty of the Greek Department for 45 years, before retiring in 1988.

Miss Lang, as she was known to many, began her service to Bryn Mawr as Warden of Rockefeller Hall (1942-1945).  She served the College in a number of administrative capacities: Acting Dean of the College, Dean of the Sophomore Class, and Secretary of the Faculty (1970-1975). In 1961, she became Chair of the Department of Greek and held the position, without sabbatical, until her retirement 27 years later.

A revered and formidable presence on campus, Professor Lang was an inspiring, caring and demanding teacher.  Professor Lang taught her signature undergraduate course – “Baby” Greek – almost every year, introducing nearly a thousand students to the language. Her graduate seminars on Homer and Thucydides set a standard across her academic field.

On a less academic note, Professor Lang was the beloved stage manager of a number of Bryn Mawr College Faculty Shows including:  Standing Room Only (1943), Top Secret (1947), Kind Hearts and Martinets (1951), and The Profs in the Pudding (1955).

Professor Lang was a prolific and celebrated scholar, who wrote twelve books and more than fifty articles, spanning the fields of history, epigraphy, and archaeology. As a Fellow of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, she excavated at the Acropolis and the Agora; this led to the publication of the first guide to the Agora, four Agora picture books, and three scholarly volumes in the esteemed Agora series. In the 1950s and 1960s, she participated in excavations at Gordion (Turkey) and the Palace of Nestor at Pylos (Greece) that led to numerous publications. Particularly seminal were her reconstruction of the frescoes at Pylos and her interpretation of tablet fragments in Linear B (the script of the Mycenaeans). Professor Lang’s later scholarship on Herodotus, Homer, and Thucydides was equally impressive and well-received.

Professor Lang’s academic contributions were widely recognized. She was awarded the Blegen Research lectureship at Vassar College (1976) and chosen to deliver the Martin Classical Lectures at Oberlin College (1982). Honors included a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship to Greece, three honorary degrees, and membership in the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the German Archeological Institute, Phi Beta Kappa, and Phi Kappa Phi.

Details about memorial services will be forthcoming.

There’s no post on the BMC website yet, so nothing to link to, but I expect there will be soon (Edit: yup. Same content as above).  Wikipedia has a short list of some of her publications, with links to those available online (mostly the Agora-related pamphlets).

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