Associate Professor of Classics Robert Germany died yesterday, March 7, of a sudden cardiac arrest.
“Robert was a beloved colleague, mentor, and friend, and his sudden and untimely death is a terrible blow to our entire community,” said President Kim Benston in a letter to the Haverford community. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Robert’s wife, Dianna, their four children (Grace, Ada, Elias, and Jack), his mother, Elizabeth, and all other members of his family.”
Germany joined the Classics Department in the fall of 2008 from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Though he was a natural and beloved teacher, he never expected to end up in academia. In 2013 he told Haverford Magazine that he hated school and never intended to go to college, but after graduating from high school and spending two years on an independent academic journey, reading widely in English literature, theology, theater, and philosophy, he found that all roads do, in fact, lead to Rome and, without classical language skills, he had run up against the wall of what he could study on his own.
So Germany returned to the classroom, earning a B.A. in classics with minors in German and Mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin and a Ph.D. in Classics at the University of Chicago. He was particularly inspired by a stint spent as a teaching assistant in Athens, where he lived, traveled, and ate alongside his students and uncovered a more immersive way to teach and learn.
“I saw a glimmer of something where education wasn’t hermetically sealed in classrooms and was a full body sport, and I loved it,” he said. “I had no desire to separate myself from my students, and so, for me, the opportunity to live on campus at Haverford and have students over to my house a couple nights a week—I really thrive on that.”
Robert was a friend from our old Orthodox parish in the Philadelphia area. His wife Dianna and their kids were part of the same classical homeschool education co-op that my wife and kids were part of. It is hard to express the shock we had at this news, and the sorrow and heartbreak for Dianna, their kids, and Robert’s mother Elizabeth, who lived with them. Have been praying for them since.
I saw thes tributes to Robert on his Facebook page, from former students. It is probably the best remembrance a teacher could hope for:
This is such a tragic loss. I met Robert when I was 18, in my first year of studying Greek, where he was the TA. His love – just complete, unadulterated, joyous LOVE – for Classics changed my life. He took a group of us to Greece (referenced in this article) and my memories of reading Plato’s Symposium while drinking “Greek” “coffee” (Robert took issue with both of those descriptors) are some of my very fondest. He played a crucial role in forming my love for classics, and was the person whose professional advice I took the most seriously when I decided to change careers and turn back toward it.
He modeled how to approach the classical world both with a light heart and a serious mind. My heart breaks for his family, friends, and students. And it breaks for those who will never get to be his friends or students. Robert was one of the very best. Unforgettable.
Memory eternal to my godfather, Robert. I wish I could muster an eloquent tribute at the moment, but I can’t. His influence on my life was, and is, profound. Robert pursued his education and the education of those he loved with his whole self. He integrated body, mind, and soul in this quest, which was not just for knowledge, but also wisdom and goodness. He was a loving and dedicated father and he maintained the curiosity of a child amidst the rigors (and lets be real – the temptations toward vanity) in “the ivory tower.” He saw that a good education is not just preparation for life, but the pursuit of a good life in itself. Memory eternal, Robert! Please also embrace his wife, Dianna, and their four children, Grace, Ada, Elias, and Jack, with your prayers.
And here’s one from an old friend of Robert’s:
I am writing my own eulogy for Robert Germany, who passed away yesterday. It’s painful to do this for a friend, especially someone who has died so young. I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts, since I have reached a place of solace in this writing for the first time today: ‘It was during this visit to Los Angeles that a second epiphany occurred between us. We drove out to the pier at Santa Monica one Saturday afternoon, on one of those days when the sun setting over Southern California has the hue and shimmer of a Byzantine mosaic. We walked out to the end of the pier – out from under the shadow of a wooden gate that stands as a guard post above – and saw the perfection of the world open up in front of our eyes. We approached the edge of the pier, where the vast infinity of the Pacific Ocean, which Robert had never seen before, engulfs the horizon itself. “Do you see what lies at the ends of the earth?”, Robert said softly, tears in his eyes. I remained silent. “Fishermen.”‘
Robert Germany was 42 years old, but look at all he accomplished in that short life. That is to say, look at all he gave. May he rest in peace, and may his memory be eternal.