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Professor John Trevaskis (1923-2002)
Papers 1942-1994

MSS 0109

Biographical note

John Trevaskis, Emeritus Professor of Classics and Comparative Philology at the University of Adelaide was a distinguished classicist and university administrator.

Born in 1923 in North Cornwall, he attended Plymouth College with all-round distinction. He went up to Queens' College as a scholar in 1942. In 1943 poor eyesight frustrated his hopes for aircrew duties and he was commissioned into the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, being later detached for service in Northern Ireland with the Welch Regiment. He returned to Queens' in 1945, completing a double first in Classics in 1948 with distinction in the Philosophy. Queens' immediately elected him to a teaching fellowship, to be Director of Studies in Classics and a member of the renowned McCullagh-Armitage-Trevaskis tutorial trio. A University Assistant Lecturer at Queens' from 1952, he was known for his quiet authoritative style and generous response to any plea for help. It was an immense disappointment to him that the University did not offer him a lectureship.

In 1957 he was appointed to the Hughes Chair of Classics and Comparative Philology at the University of Adelaide. Under his enthusiastic leadership the small Classics Department more than doubled in size. Later, with student numbers reduced by the removal of compulsory Latin from other degrees, he introduced a highly successful course of classics in translation, which has continued alongside the teaching of Latin and Greek. Colleagues remember him as approachable, good at consulting, decisive, fair, reserved but not without humour, and kind while not above showing impatience.

He was instrumental in founding the University of Adelaide Museum of Classical Archaeology, and leading the build-up of a substantial collection. Later a "Friends" organisation was formed, opening up a fruitful link with the State Museum, and inaugurating widely esteemed lectures. In the same spirit, finding the Classical Association of South Australia a small coterie of specialists within the Department, he left it with a large and thriving membership inside and outside the University.

Despite a hankering for research and a lifelong suspicion of meetings as time-wasting, his effectiveness led him into ever more exacting roles in university administration, including President of the Staff Association, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Chairman of the Education Committee, Chairman of the Professorial Board, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Acting Vice-Chancellor for much of a critical year.

Adapted from the Obituary in The Adelaidean vol. 12 no.2 March 2003.

Contents Listing

1.    Queens' College, Cambridge.

       Student notebooks 1942-1945. 6 notebooks.

  • 'Compositions and versions', Lent term 1942: annotated printed texts and translations pasted into notebook
  • 'Versions' 1945: annotated printed texts and translations pasted into notebook
  • 'Greek history/Philosophy' [undated]: ms notes on Persian Wars, Roman history 220-133, Aristotle, Greek philosophy, post-Aristotelians, literary passages, Roman empire
  • 'Skeleton essays' [undated]: ms notes, drafts
  • 2 notebooks [unlabelled, undated]: appears to be ms lecture notes, including Roman 'Synopsis of lectures on Greek religion' and 'Aristotle physics'.

Queens' memorabilia

  • luncheon menu for fifth centenary of the foundation of the College 7 June 1948
  • 1984 letter thanking Trevaskis for donations to Queens College Henley fund

2.    Lectures delivered for the Dept of Classics, University of Adelaide 1979-1994

  • Narrative & Didactic I: introduction, Homer hymns, & Hesiod. Ms full version of lecture and preparatory notes
  • Narrative & Didactic IV & V: Theokritos & Hellenistic & Roman (1979-1981, superseded by Roman Poetry I 1983)
  • Roman Poetry: Horace odes (1983 & 1987). Ms drafts
  • Roman Love Poetry (Honours 1994). Course notes including reading list, Roman literature time chart, photocopied poems (some annotated), notes, essay topic, letter to Carmel (?) re lecturing appointment for the course
  • Classical Studies II: Ovid lectures I-III by Phillip RJ Warrell 1985?. Typescripts including bibliographies and handouts
  • 1983 Classical Studies course and assessment timetable and list of lecturers

3.    Correspondence ca 1983-1985: limited collection of letters/draft copies of correspondence

  • Roneo circular letter upon opening of the University of Adelaide Museum of Classical Archaeology
  • Letter from the Vice Chancellor July 1983 thanking Professor Trevaskis for donation to the University
  • Draft letter from Trevaskis to the Vice Chancellor requesting sick leave
  • Two letters from Ron Cornes, Dept of Classics, July 1969 and February 1985
  • Letters to colleagues re suitable candidates for the Hughes Chair of Classics upon Trevaskis' retirement 1983
  • Draft letter of congratulations to Professor Robert Ussher on acceptance of the Chair 1983?
  • References written for Mrs J. Sinclair, Anne Geddes and Phillip Warrell.

4.    Manuscript book (undated)

  • Manuscript of book on the Athenians. Contents: Introduction; The rise of Athens; The emergence of democracy; Freedom and equality, Plato & Protagoras, Man and woman, The Polis and the open society, Individualism.

Cheryl Hoskin
July 2008

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