Faculty Profile: William Stull

Jessica Polonsky

Within an often-overlooked corner of Lawrence Hall resides the Classics Department, a second home to Visiting Assistant Professor of the Classics William Stull. Sitting opposite an expansive wall of books that could pass for a modest college library, his office is homage to the great authors, philosophers and orators of Western traditions. At ease amidst these volumes telling of the ancient past, Stull. Proficient – if not fluent – in German, Italian, Latin and Greek, Stull regards the study of Classics to be a fitting niche. He combines his comprehensive linguistic talents with his zeal for history. As an undergraduate at Princeton University confronted with the very pressing and relatable need to choose a major, he selected the Classics Department. Stull found the small department, which facilitated personal interactions between the teachers and students, to be appealing. As a student of Latin since the seventh grade, his own education has been deeply rooted in classical traditions, connecting the origins of modern ideas to the past. “One of the great things about Classics is that it gives you a chance to delve into all kinds of areas – literature, history, philosophy, religion, etc. It is the ultimate interdisciplinary field of study,” Stull said. “[It is also a] great way to go to Italy and Greece.” First in graduate school at the University of Chicago and then as a Professor at the University of Missouri, and now as a teacher, Stull continues his education alongside his students, whom he regards as “able, curious and enthusiastic” about their studies. Teaching at an institution like Colgate, where undergraduates are the exclusive, he hones his skill. “As a teacher, one is really challenged to think of teaching as an art, an art that requires constant involvement and continual thinking about how to be most effective in the classroom,” Stull said. It is this particular attitude that will travel with Stull, a co-leader for the extended study trip to Rome this coming May. He lived in Rome for a year as a graduate student at the University of Chicago and recognizes the colossal advantage of learning first hand about ancient Greek and Roman civilization and its contribution to modern culture. “[It is remarkable to see the extent to which the study of Greek and Latin traditions] helps in understanding how language in general works,” Stull said. “Our way of expressing ourselves, even in English, has been influenced in a fundamental way by the Greeks and the Romans who were after all the basis of education until quite recently.” The Core curriculum, which focuses in part on the traditions of the west, provides the average Colgate student with a common background and, for many, has stirred a further interest. “One of the really neat things about Classics at Colgate is the way it’s been growing in recent years,” Stull said. “We have far higher enrollment in Intro Greek than we have had ever before and so the growing population of Classics here really refutes all those pessimistic doom and gloom people who say that nobody is interested in the past anymore.” Stull attributes this upsurge in interest to good teachers, students’ appreciation for a challenge and the fact that “you can’t beat Homer and Plato”. Stull offered students some parting words of wisdom. “Look at your four years here as a wonderful opportunity to explore, take chances, discover new interests and not as strictly preparation for a career,” he said.