There is simply no faculty member at Franklin & Marshall College who has occupied the range of positions that Ann Steiner, Shirley Watkins Steinman Professor of Classics, has taken on in her 40-year career. Like the Greek hero Herakles, who traveled throughout the Mediterranean to tackle an array of labors, she moved from the classroom (Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, 1990) to senior administration roles as Associate Dean of the Faculty (2002-2006), Provost and Dean of the Faculty (2007-2013), and Bonchek House Don (2014-2018). To all of these challenges she brought her zeal for intellectual discussion, curiosity, empathy, and eagerness for fun.
Herakles’ Nemean lion skin helmet girded him on his long journeys, as has Ann’s intellectual curiosity into the manifold uses of pottery in ancient culture. She published the collection of Greek vases in the Josyln Art Museum (Omaha, Neb.) in the prestigious Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum series in 1987. Her study investigating how text and image communicate culminated in Reading Greek Vases (Cambridge University Press, 2007). Guy Hedreen, an expert in the field, described it as bringing “out the creative interplay between writing and painting as two different but complementary communications systems.…the book is filled with original, exciting, and often humorous analyses of individual vase-paintings. They have changed the way that scholars look at many familiar works of art.” She then turned back to field research, joining the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project as Director of Research (2002-present) at the site of Poggio Colla near Florence, Italy. This collaboration allowed F&M students to explore exciting new excavation and research opportunities. Her research focused on the essential functions of pottery as cooking and drinking ware. She deployed faculty and students from many F&M departments—Geology, Anthropology, Art History, and Classics—in numerous archaeological fieldwork and research projects, affording them the opportunity to engage in the interdisciplinary research that she herself models. This continued her practice of mentoring students who went on to complete graduate work and who remain active and established professionals in classics departments around the country. She returned to archaeological projects in Greece in 2012 publishing pottery found at the Sanctuary of Zeus at Mt. Lykaion. Her current project, Dining in the Center of Democracy: The Tholos Pottery in Historical Context, examines a public dining set used in democratic Athens and excavated in the Athenian Agora, for which she has received fellowships from the NEH (2013-14), Wenner Gren (2016-18), and a Samuel Kress Publication Grant (2018-19).
Ann’s impressive research program coincided with her labors in academic administration, where she drew on her many skills to tackle the nine-headed Hydra of different, sometimes competing, interests of faculty, students, and administrators. As Provost, she supported student and faculty internationalization, and the creation of the Faculty Center and the Office of College Grants. Combined with this was her wide-ranging perspective and attention to detail. As Professor Ed Fenlon described, “she would say something like, ‘It seems to me, that we really ought to consider…’ and you knew whatever came next would either be an important point from earlier that was lost or something that no one had thought of yet, but was something that needed to be considered.” Above all, her leadership style was grounded in her deep interest in people. Beth Profitt, Bonchek House Dean, recalled when she first taught as an adjunct, “I felt pretty peripheral, but Ann made me feel anything but that. She greeted me warmly, remembered my name, and knew who I was…she made me feel welcome, that I mattered and belonged. It meant a lot.” Professor Carmen Tisnado noted that, “Ann’s wisdom came from her experience in and knowledge of our institution, and more importantly, from the human touch…She would approach different challenges with wit and a sense of humor that brought laughter at very needed times.” Many have experienced her as a gracious host of events, such as the faculty and family potlucks at the Provost’s residence. As Bonchek House Don, former students, such as Emily Germani, recall how she helped to make everyone feel connected: “Her door was always open and she was enthusiastic about building the community in Bonchek…she always very excitedly supported the dance concerts, theatre productions, and other student events.”
In sum, over the past 40 years, Ann Steiner’s success in her many intellectual and professional labors provides a heroic model for the F&M faculty.