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Alumni Profiles

Daisy Dunn, St Hilda's 2005; Now a writer

I came up to Oxford to read Classics armed with a Latin dictionary, a box of empty ring-binders, and a pink kettle. When I went down in 2009, I had twelve over-filled files, stacks of student newspapers I couldn’t throw away,and, resting on top, the ‘soft cap’ I chose in preference to the mortar board for taking to the university examinations. Seeing my accomplishments piled up like that only blurred the memories of what life had been like as an undergraduate.

There was no room in the car boot for the hours I had spent tracking down articles in the Sackler Library, or listening to lectures on the Homeric Question in Schools, or handling priceless Greek vases and Roman casts, and editing copy in the frantic newspaper offices on St Aldate’s. I studied both Greek and Latin as part of the course, and really enjoyed the opportunity to take papers in Homer and Ovid, as well as in Roman history, art, and the Reception of Classics in twenty-first century poetry. By the end of the final year I wanted to look at the subject from a different perspective, and won a scholarship to study for an MA in Art History of Renaissance Italy at the Courtauld Institute in London. After a break, this led me to embark upon a part-time PhD in the relationship between the two worlds, the ancient and the Renaissance, at UCL, where I was lucky enough to be awarded funding from the AHRC. At the same time I worked as Executive Officer of JACT, which supports the teaching of Classics in schools,and as a journalist. I completed my PhD in 2013. Today I work full time as a writer and critic, and remain involved in the work of JACT and the Classical Association. My first book is very much inspired by the topics I studied as a Classics undergraduate at Oxford.

Joanna Dirmikis, Magdalen College 1997; Now a qualified barrister

My passion for Greece,drama and history  drew me to studying Classics. Oxford was an obvious choice because it has the best reputation in the subject and Magdalen was the obvious college for me because of having Professor Oliver Taplin, a world expert in Ancient Greek theatre. I have very fond memories of the tutorial system at Oxford and the theatrical performances I acted in and directed whilst I was a student at Oxford.   

Studying Classics helped me hone some of the skills I still use today for my work as a barrister -forensic analysis of huge amounts of information, honing arguments on one side or another, interpreting and weighing evidence and asking and trying to answer some very challenging questions. But it also gave me a bedrock of knowledge which I can always go back to and build on if I want to. I am still fascinated by the Ancient World, still love all things Classical and I am so glad I decided to study what I did. It has made me a better lawyer and hopefully a more interesting and well-rounded person !  

Douglas Reith, Christ Church 1989; Now an actor

Mods 'A' Literae Humaniores at 36 years old! Daunted? No;apprehensive? You bet! There I was, a Christ Church 'Fresher' in October 1989,exactly twice the age of the other new bugs. I'd re-sat my Latin and Greek 'A'levels, in order to be at least on a par with all the bright and younger things. My initial worries were groundless.

The House is a wonderfully inclusive college, and I was never made to feel out of place by any of my much younger comtemporaries. The course tested and stretched me to the limit -sometimes beyond! But I always had the support of wonderful tutors -and fellow students brighter than I. I had resigned from my announcing job with BBC Radio 3 to return to classics, and I haven't regretted that decision for a second; it was a fantastically enriching 4 Years. I went on to teach at a VIth Form college in London, then briefly at Westminster School, and as a private tutor, until I revived my acting career. I have no doubt that my reading of Greek Tragedy and Comedy has informed and deepened my understanding of performance - even in my present role in Downton Abbey! Looking back now, what a privilege it was to have the time and freedom to study some of the greatest literature ever written, and be guided by some of the finest minds available.

Ave Aedes Christi, sed numquam vale.

Tim  Boswell (Lord Boswell of Aynho); New College 1961; Now a politican

'On reflection-perhaps it is always so in Oxford- my time there (Lit Hum 1961-65) was marked by the closing stages of the careers of great persons. I attended Eduard Fraenkel's last years of seminars, was tutored in New College by Eric Yorke, and heard lectures by Maurice Bowra. On moving from Mods to Greats, I was tutored for Roman history by C.E.(('Tom') Stevens, and watched with fascination the dialectic on 4th century Greek history between my own tutor Geoffrey de Ste Croix and Gerald Cawkwell-while on the philosophy side Freddie Ayer was still active.

I then did something eccentric if not unique, and after graduating applied to do a post-graduate Diploma- in Agricultural Economics!. This launched me into an early career spanning both the practice of farming ( on our family farm) and political research.The latter eventually took me into Parliament as Conservative MP for Daventry 1987-2010, including Ministerial time as a Government Whip, then as Minister for Further and Higher Education, and finally back to Agriculture, while in Opposition I covered a wide range of front-bench shadow responsibilities including mental capacity and disability issues, and became a specialist in equality and human rights. Along the way, I served at different times as County Chair of the Natuional Farmers' Union, Chair of a constituency Party,Chair of an agricultural research charity, and even for two years as a public interest member of a Science Research Council(then AFRC, precursor of BBSRC). Having moved to the House of Lords in 2010 on retirement from the Commons, I am now Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees and chair the Select Committee on the European Union. When I was contemplating reading Classics, we heard a lot about the possibility of transfer of training!