An alum reminisces: Jane Joyce, ‘Beginnings Shared’
March 11, 2010 By David W. Cheatham ’81
Before there was a Classics major at Centre, there was a classic teacher named Jane Joyce, a newly minted Ph.D. from the University of Texas.
Jane arrived at Centre the fall of my sophomore year, and set about to teach intermediate Latin to three students. On the first day of term she told us that the text we would use was on special order. Only seven copies of an 1894 edition of Cicero’s Pro Milone could be found in a warehouse in Chicago that suffered flooding decades before. The books were on their way, and so were we.
But unlike the austere Cambridge textbook, Jane was approachable. Our class translated more lines at her home than in the classroom in Norton. And occasionally we would conclude, as the Romans did, with a cup of hot, mulled wine.
This was a different type of teaching for me.
Jane had the spark of Professors Paul Cantrell and Charlie Hazelrigg, and the same ability to let you in on their secret: Great teaching was fun. And it made you want to share the fun with others. And more important, it made Centre home, particularly for folks like Jane and I who came to Kentucky for new beginnings.
So I was right at home when Jane joined a creative writing class and discovered that she enjoyed writing poetry as much as she did translating it. It is certainly clichéd, but Jane’s enthusiasm for writing was contagious. It was that fun thing again.
A few years after I graduated, Jane sent me a copy of the first printing of her first book, The Quilt Poems. Many books later, it’s clear that she made a life-time commitment out of a winter term class.
As a writer and teacher myself, I see just how much I learned about both disciplines at Centre. When an undergrad comes to me with a question on style or substance, Centre’s heritage of involved faculty is my touchstone.
That’s why, having been a student of both Dr. Cantrell and Dr. Joyce, it was altogether fitting to me that Jane held the Paul L. Cantrell Professorship in the Humanities.
The recent death of a classmate brought me back to Centre, and before I boarded the plane, I pulled out my copy of Quilt Poems. I noticed the inscription that I forgot was there: ‘Many beginnings shared.’
Jane Joyce is, to borrow her phrase, a repeating star. And we need more like her woven into the fabric of Centre.