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In Memory of Prof. Mark Edwards (1929-2016)

It is with sadness that we announce the passing of Professor Mark Edwards on August 26th after a brief illness.


Born and bred in the UK, he taught at Brown University and Queen's University, Ontario, before coming to Stanford in 1969 as department chair. In just over two decades at Stanford, Professor Edwards made his mark as an enormously successful teacher of classical literature to graduate and undergraduate students, many of whom went on to become leading scholars. In retirement, Mark continued to teach and research, his role as mentor reaching far and wide in North American Classics. We mourn the loss of a beloved colleague, teacher, and friend.

Below are collected tributes from Mark's students, friends, and colleagues.


When I was a graduate student at Stanford in drama 35 years ago, I took many Classics courses (in those days this was not impossible). As chair of Classics, Mark and made me feel most welcome, and he strongly supported my work in ancient Greek language and literature. We remained friends until his death. 

            —Rush Rehm (PhD 1985), Professor, Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS), and Classics; Artistic Director, Stanford Repertory Theater (SRT)


Every interaction I can remember with Mark Edwards was courteous, kind, and intellectually honest. Sometimes we gave SLE presentations together, sometimes I pestered him with questions about Homer. He was unfailingly gracious and helpful. A gentleman and a scholar whose thoughtfulness and dignity brought honor to our profession, I will always remember him with deep respect. Love — Maud

           —Maud Gleason, Lecturer, Classics


                                                                                           I have just retired from teaching Classics at Oberlin College for 42 years. I can say with some certainty that I owe my career to Mark Edwards.

When I returned to Stanford to finish my PhD in 1972, I was coming from an unhappy three years at Yale, uncertain about my prospects. Before arriving at Stanford, I had sent Mark a paper I wrote for a graduate seminar taught by Adam Parry on Iliad 16 and 17, a paper which Adam never read before his death that summer. Mark read the paper with great care and sent me a letter encouraging me to pursue the ideas in the paper. I did so, and the paper became the nucleus for my first published article.


As my dissertation advisor, Mark was unfailingly helpful, always reading my drafts promptly and offering excellent suggestions that made the final product much better than it might otherwise have been. Mark supported my application to Oberlin, and I know that his influence was a significant factor in my being appointed to the position. After I left Stanford for Oberlin, Mark continued to read my work, articles, grant applications, and book manuscripts, and helped me enormously. His intelligence and generosity set a standard for me that has never been surpassed. I simply would not have been able to make a career in Classics without his superb mentoring.

Over the years, Mark and I became close friends. My wife Mary and I enjoyed his warm hospitality several times in California, traveling with him to see the missions he loved. In 1993, when I was invited to speak at UC Santa Cruz and UC San Diego, Mark, Mary, and I made our way by car from Palo Alto to Santa Cruz to La Jolla, a journey etched in my memory, filled with conversation on everything from gardening to US politics to the Queen (he was a loyal admirer, as we were to learn) and punctuated by wonderful leisurely dinners along the way. When Mark visited Oberlin as the Martin Lecturer in 1999, I was delighted that my friends and colleagues could finally see what I’d been raving about for so many years. Mark was one of the most important people in my life and I will miss him terribly.

            —Thomas Van Nortwick (BA 1969, PhD 1975), Professor Emeritus of Classics, Oberlin College


The predominant qualities I recall about Professor Mark Edwards are his gentleness and gentlemanliness.

I remember inspiring moments and insights in his courses on Homer and Aeschylus. At a spring 1975 departmental party, visiting professor Michael Grant suggested I study the mural art of Pompeii for one of my graduate exams. I joked to Mark that the department should send me to study at Pompeii. In his characteristically quiet, understated British manner, Mark replied seriously, “I think that can be arranged.” And it was.

Given the convergence of our research interests, when I asked he agreed to be my principal dissertation advisor on “Personifications in Aeschylus’ Oresteia.” At a meeting early on, and influenced by George Thomson’s Aeschylus and Athens, I said that I might raise the issue of matriarchy. Mark’s response was priceless: a single, raised eyebrow, which told me all I needed to know. The progress on my dissertation was rocky. Mark managed to be both firm and supportive, a rare combination of qualities, which enabled me finally to complete my degree.

Mark was a valuable mentor to me during my graduate studies. Because I did not understand academic ways, I did not continue to rely upon him as a mentor after graduation. I remember his smile at seeing me at conferences, where we discussed our research and career paths. I will always remember Mark as the true gentleman, scholar, and teacher that he was. I feel honored by the privilege to have studied and worked with him.

            —Bella Vivante (PhD 1982), Professor Emerita of Classics, University of Arizona


The passing of Mark Edwards closes an important and exciting chapter in the history of the Stanford Classics department.

As baby boomers began to flood universities in North America, the demand for professors gave rise to an unparalleled influx of graduate students across all disciplines in academia, and Classics was no exception. My incoming class of 1967 had no fewer than 12 students admitted to the PhD program in Classics at Stanford.

It was in the midst of all this activity and effervescence that Mark came to the department in 1969, joining an already impressive list of outstanding scholars and professors such as T. B. L. Webster, Lionel Pearson, Brooks Otis, and Antony Raubitschek. And along with his keen mind and recognized expertise in Greek and Latin poetry, Mark Edwards brought to the department his very special qualities as a person—quiet, thoughtful, very much aware of the state of affairs in the world, available and considerate, and blessed with a wry and funny sense of humor.

As a Canadian, I quickly gravitated to Mark, as he had spent several years at Queen’s University (Ontario) and was very informed about and interested in the political challenges Canada was experiencing at that time. We had many stimulating conversations on the subject over the years, in person and through correspondence.

Although I left Stanford in 1972 when I completed my degree, I never lost touch with Mark. We exchanged missives at Christmas time; he came to visit with my family and me when we were posted in Rome and he was on sabbatical; we would always arrange to share a meal whenever I was in the Bay Area.

In 2013, my wife Brigitte and I spent some vacation time in the wine country, and the highlight of our time there were those successive days when Mark picked us up at our hotel and drove us through the back roads he knew well and so loved in Napa and Sonoma counties. We felt privileged to get such attention from Mark, and as much as we were impressed by his knowledge of the history, culture, and geography of the area, what struck us most were his powerful yet modest generosity and, above all, his genuine humility.

As much as we all recognize and appreciate his great contribution to the Classics as a scholar and a professor, it is Mark Edwards, the person, that we will miss most.

Thank you Mark, and rest in peace.

            —Don Taddeo (PhD 1972)


It is a long time since I have been a graduate student, so I no longer remember the details of the Greek poetry course I took with Mark as a first year, but what made a lasting impression was his kindness and his sincere interest in each and every graduate student. These were exceptional qualities that set him apart not only as a faculty member but as a human being.

            —Kathy Veit (MA 1988)


In December 1971, my fellow recent PhD or ABD Classics friends and I faced a grim job market. I was fortunate to obtain interviews for teaching positions at the meetings of both the American Historical Association and the American Philological Association (as it was then fondly known). These meetings were in different cities, of course, and a graduate student-lecturer had no jetsetter budget. (In those days of the previous century, there were no university travel stipends or aid from professional organizations.) After interviewing at the AHA, I dragged myself to the second East Coast venue, but I was out of money and had no credit card, much less credit. Mark, who was then chair, informed of my problem, invited me to sleep on his room’s couch. It does not sound like much, perhaps, but it practically brought me to tears, since prospects seemed not bright. Because Mark had come to Stanford after I had finished with coursework and because I was studying in Greece that year, I never had a chance to take a course from him. My loss. His generosity to a comparative stranger was typical of his large-hearted helpfulness.

When I was collecting information and annotations on Toni Raubitschek’s autobiography—written for me in examination “bluebooks” (see Histos, supplementary vol. 1,—I asked Mark some questions about his long friendship with Toni. He surprised me by reporting that he had a similar set (and there were others). He also shared with me copies of cassette tapes that Mike Jameson had made of long interviews with Toni. (Mike had been my teaching colleague for four years at Penn before he moved to Stanford.) Like all of us, Toni had favorite anecdotes related in nearly identical form in more than one medium, but it was precious to hear them in that unique timbre and accent.

Mark was full of surprises like those tapes, if one accidentally had access to a lever to pry them out. He seemed to me a very private person, and I always regretted not getting to know him better. I had hoped to see him this past January at the SCS (as the APA is less fondly known now), or at the Stanford Party in San Francisco, but he begged off due to failing (night) eyesight. Here is an excerpt from my last communication from Mark (2 December 2015):

“Don—Thanks for the dinner invitation, but I’m afraid I shall not be able to attend. At my age I try to avoid driving at night as much as possible, and coming back from S.F. isn’t too good after dark. But I hope you have a good time. I promised you Ned Spofford’s obit, and then could not find it. Now I have a copy, and it’s attached.”

So, once more, Mark supplied me with information about a mutual friend: Ned, once my teacher at Cornell in 1967, who, like Mark, had helped me out in a dark hour, offering a tutorial on Horace’s Satires. Mark was a kind figure of stability for many caught in a quandary and a good friend. I will miss his voice and collegiality.

            —Donald Lateiner (MA 1971, PhD 1972)


Mark Edwards is the person who brought me to Stanford forty years ago. In so many ways, then, I owe about 80% of my professional life to him. In 1975–76, I was teaching at Berkeley for the year, and Stanford announced a position in Greek literature, which, of course, I applied for instantly. Mark was the Chair—and had been for several years. When I was lucky enough to be asked to drive down from Berkeley for a talk and interviewing, he was my host for the day. For the first of almost uncountable times, I experienced his informal and gentle bearing, his courtesy and kindness. A few weeks later, I received a phone call from Mark and an invitation to join the department. I arrived on campus in the fall of 1976 and, except for sabbaticals, have never left. Pretty much every day for all these years, I feel waves of thanks to Mark for wanting me to be here and bringing it about—I won’t say single-handedly, but certainly leading the way. Lest I ascribe total saintliness to Mark, it should be noted that still within that opening fall term he told me that he was stepping down as Chair in the spring and I would have to take his place! During almost ten years as Chair spread over the next fifteen years, Mark was my closest and most admired and trusted colleague. I asked his advice on practically everything and constantly learned from what he thought and said. In the last few years that I was the Chair, Mark had become emeritus, but so invaluable was he to the department that we convinced him to continue to attend all—often strongly contested—meetings. I could not imagine better hands helping all of us, but probably me most of all. I have to end my reflections on Mark, however, on a more muted and regretful note. Once he moved north to a retirement community, his quiet ways kept him apart from Stanford far more than anyone wanted, and efforts to figure out how I could persuade him to tell me when he was planning to be at a talk or event never really worked. When we spotted one another across a lecture room, however, we would usually sit together, and for an hour it always felt to me like the old times. The last of these was at commencement in 2015 when Mark was here to honor a former student, Andrew Bridges, who was giving our departmental commencement address. We told Mark to sit with the faculty, and for the next ninety minutes I was in the presence of the person to whom I have owed so much for so many years. I did not see Mark Edwards again.  As ever — Marsh

            —Marsh McCall, Professor Emeritus


Dear Mark,

From far-away California news has come of your recent departure, yet in my mind you live on in your usual good spirits: I can still see you in your brown corduroy jacket, turtleneck sweater, and Hush Puppies shoes tilting your head backwards with eyes closed as you let out a hearty laugh. Mirth was never alien to you.

Others will speak more eloquently about your scholarly achievements. As for me, you were always close to my heart, ever since you took us recently arrived first-year grads to dinner. You showed such interest and seemed to have such genuine fun with us that we instantly felt like we belonged. It was a wonderful welcome, and the years to come would only confirm that first impression.

As a teacher and mentor, you freely shared your exceptional scholarship with all; unfailingly interesting, curious, and considerate, you were a true gentleman. Had I stayed in the profession, I believe I would have aspired to be as much like you as possible, even knowing how supremely difficult it can be to honor the human in today’s Humanities. The fact that you managed this balancing act with apparent ease, as if observing it all with amusement from Olympian heights, is to me your greatest legacy and a testimony to the potency of the smiling wisdom of the Greeks.

            —Miguel (Michael) Schmid (PhD 1996)


Mark Edwards was my first professor at Stanford, in the fall of 1973, when I’d just arrived on the Farm from a public high school in Denver. Mark taught a big Humanities course, where he introduced us to Sophocles and Euripides, Horace and Vergil. By the end of the quarter, I knew I wanted to become a Classics major, even though I had never taken a class in Latin or Greek, or read a word of the Odyssey or the Aeneid before I came to Stanford.

Mark agreed to become my advisor, and counseled me with wisdom and patience for the next four years. He urged me to go to the Center for Classical Studies in Rome, found money for me to travel around the Mediterranean, and helped me with some of the toughest passages I faced.

And, at the end, he wisely (and gently) dissuaded me from thinking I had the patience to become a Classics scholar. He noted that my real passion was journalism, and he supported me every step of the way.

            —Bill Grueskin (BA 1977), Professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism


I was saddened to hear of Dr. Edwards’s passing and wanted to share my remembrance of him. I first encountered Dr. Edwards as an undergraduate freshman in 1981 when he gave a lecture in my Humanities track (which at the time was a first-year requirement). This lecture happened to be after lunch, and many of my fellow students were drifting off during the lecture. Dr. Edwards was lecturing on Homer’s Iliad and during the lecture recited a passage in Greek to convey the poetic qualities of Homeric Greek. When he did this, the post-prandial somnolence seemed to vanish and everyone sat up and listened. That was my introduction to the Classical Languages at Stanford, and I ended up pursuing a degree in Latin and Greek. Thank you, Dr. Edwards, for your inspiration!

            —Brian Jeffrey (BA 1985)


I knew Mark Edwards for over 30 years as a teacher and friend, and loved and admired him. He was a person of steady goodness, kindness, intelligence, and wisdom, and behaved in the same manner to everyone. It was no surprise when he told me that at his retirement village, which was apparently stuffed with retired scholars and scientists, he had 35 people in his Thucydides reading group. One of my own fondest memories is of a time he was visiting in Utah, when I lived there, and I took him to see a yard of old trains in the Heber Valley. He had an interest in engineering. He enjoyed that a lot, and explained some of the engineering designs to me. He also liked the southwest desert country, and had a van in which he could tour around and at the same time flip down a desk in the back to spend time doing his work. He once found himself halfway over a river in southern Utah on a hanging pedestrian bridge, with low rope railings, and decided to retreat. I drove him through Provo Canyon and told him how I had seen there two Homeric scenes perfectly realized—flowers on a mountainside on a summer day and high peaks jutting out in the moonlight on a clear night. The last time I saw him he visited my family in our Manhattan apartment. He was as delightful as ever, and I was glad my wife got to meet him. I have missed seeing more of him for years, and will miss him now. Best regards — Dan

            —Daniel Blickman (PhD 1983)


I was very sad to hear the news about Mark Edwards. Along with the tremendous efforts of Toni Raubitschek and T. B. L. Webster, Professor Edwards brought my rudimentary understanding of Greek up to speed in a matter of two years’ time. His seminar on the Iliad (Homer 152) was one of the highlights of my short stint at Stanford. My regards and condolences to his family and friends.

            —William D. Frank  (BA 1974)


I am very sorry to hear this sad news about Professor Edwards’s passing. I was in touch with him in recent years regarding our common friend, Professor Edward Spofford, with whom I studied Greek freshman year. Ned later became my Classics advisor, and our friendship continued after my undergraduate days until his death. I know that Professor Edwards was a wonderful, caring friend to Ned in his final years. My sympathy goes out to Professor Edwards’s friends and family. My best — Debra

            —Debra Aaronson Lawless (BA 1981)


Mark was a very good and close friend, the memory of whose kindness, helpfulness—the pleasure of whose company—I will treasure for the remainder of my life. All morning I’ve been jotting down memories as they occurred to me, in no particular order and with no desire for completeness. Here an old one, from the ’90s: having drinks at sunset at the Cliff House—I, a margarita; he, a Manhattan—before it was renovated. And then later driving along Geary, “I don’t go to the Cliff House anymore. They’ve ruined the place.” And that he was passionate about New England clam chowder—“I can’t stand that Manhattan stuff. It’s not real clam chowder.”—bought it canned, always had several cans in his cupboard for a quick meal, couldn’t resist it on a menu. Along with fish and chips, “Let’s drive down to The Fish Trap. Their fish and chips is very good.” Or over to the Pelican. We took many such trips together, driving down the California coast to Los Angeles, making a stop at Marie Callender’s for their turkey pot pie (he found turkey irresistible), staying over in Santa Barbara. “I much prefer it to L.A.” Walking along the promenade. “Isn’t this beautiful?” On the other hand he surprised me by really liking the Disney Concert Hall. I had expected him to be put off by Gehry, much as he liked the new building for the Anderson Collection at Stanford. On the other hand, while he couldn’t understand my enthusiasm for Joan Mitchell, he genuinely liked Motherwell. I was waiting to hear what he had to say about the new SF MOMA (he had sent me articles but hadn’t committed himself). I was already planning our trips there, and to the other Bay Area (or L.A.) museums—wherever there was an interesting exhibit.

It is difficult to say which he loved more, museums or the hills of California—the ways and the byways “look like England, especially in the spring.” “But,” I contradicted, “in the summer when they’re brown, I know then that I’m in California.” He pretended not to hear me: “Reminds me of England.” He was always exploring California—reading about it, taking walks, driving through unfrequented roads and valleys—showing me just a few years back the very lovely Route 25, “This is where I thought about renting a cottage and riding up to Stanford on my motorbike. Or at least spending my weekends down here with my dog. He was a stray. He wandered into my life and chose to stay and make me happy.”

He loved the Pacific Ocean, “Let’s drive over to Bodega Bay, have lunch and walk along the cliffs.” He’d have his fish and chips and afterwards we’d walk along the cliffs and talk. “Let’s drive to Half Moon Bay and have lunch—we have to get there early!—and walk along the cliffs afterwards.” He’d have his fish and chips and afterwards we’d walk along the cliffs and talk. He loved the Pacific Northwest—an APA meeting in Seattle was an excuse for a leisurely drive up the coast and a chance to meet old friends. He also loved the Sierras (“I take my camper up there every year in the autumn and walk and read for a few days”). I was meaning to ask him when he was going up to the Sierras when I got the news of his death.

He loved movies: Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock—after some hesitation, I introduced him to Wong Kar-wai and he became an enthusiast—seduced by the beauty of the images. He loved photography. Every year I’d prepare a list of current movies to go see and older ones to order from Netflix and we’d “O.D.” on movies—even though he very often fell asleep and snored through the movie. “I haven’t had my after-dinner nap.” If he liked what little he’d seen, “I’ll watch it later,” or “I’ll order it another time.” And he did—during the day, not after dinner.

I don’t know that he really liked American football but he loved watching our enthusiasm for it and, of course, dressing up in Stanford colors at Villa Marin for The Big Game. And serving drinks—“I’m one of the few here who can manage a corkscrew.”

He became an enthusiast for Buddhism, for a day of meditation at Spirit Rock or with Ed Brown (“He always has great cookies! And the bread is delicious”) at Green Gulch (another favorite walk). At one point we even began to learn Pali so that we could read the sutras together.

He loved mechanisms (“I’ve figured out how that works”) and machines—from clocks to cranes; from giant ships to the windmills in Golden Gate Park (where he had his favorite trails).

Reading reading reading: reading. He loved poetry. He loved detective novels, especially Michael Innes but also Tony Hillerman; political history (especially Thucydides and biographies of the heroes of the Revolutionary War); politics (“You’re a talk show junkie,” I told him); philosophy (especially Aristotle); Jane Austen … (He had recently discovered a filmed version of Lady Susan—“We have to watch it when you come. She’s so evil!”) And not to forget Edward Abbey nor Patrick Leigh Fermor. I just pulled Abbey’s Desert Solitaire (a present from Mark) from my bookshelves: A Season in the Wilderness; A celebration of the beauty of living in a harsh and hostile land.

            —Spencer Edwards, former student


As you no doubt know, Mark taught in the Classics Department at Queen's for eight years in the 60’s.  (I myself had the pleasure of meeting him in 1987 at the retirement party for Prof. Margaret Reesor, whom I replaced, on which occasion I learned— much to my delight — that I now occupy Mark's former office, with its commanding view of Queen's football field.)  On a more serious note, Mark’s work on the Iliad is well known and studied on this, as on every campus.  I have no way of knowing what venue your department offers for tributes of this sort, but, if at all possible, please make it known to all interested parties that Prof. Edwards is remembered at Queen’s with both fondness and pride.  Sincerely yoursDrew

           R. Drew Griffith, Professor and Head, Department of Classics, Queen’s University


It may seem odd that Mark Edwards, a brilliant Hellenist whose expertise was in Homer, was an important contributor to the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies (ICCS) in Rome. Although Mark never taught at ICCS, he was for many years the continuing host institution representative for Stanford to the ICCS Managing Committee, the elected group of faculty from member institutions responsible for setting academic policy and selecting students and faculty for each semester in Rome. In his participation on the Managing Committee (and in his ongoing consultation with Stanford’s Overseas Studies office, the administrative seat for the first half of ICCS’s history), Mark was unfailingly quiet, careful, thoughtful, and professional. He had a wry sense of humor and was always clear. On the 25th anniversary year of the founding of ICCS, Mark led one of its earliest fundraising efforts, the Silver Jubilee Campaign, setting an important precedent for more robust such efforts later on. And as ICCS approached its half-century anniversary, Mark wrote a crucial first chapter for The Centro at 50, setting the context for the remaining chapters of that book about the history of ICCS. Tolly Boatwright, currently Chair of Classical Studies at Duke, an ICCS and Stanford Classics alum who has taught twice at ICCS, including one time as Professor-in-Charge, remembers Mark as a uniquely encouraging scholar and teacher with a “capacious devotion to Classical Studies who nurtured students who were clearly not moving into his own specialties.” Andrew Bridges, currently an intellectual property attorney, an ICCS and Stanford Classics alum, and a member of the ICCS Advisory Board, remembers Mark as “a gentle, selfless, and brilliant man.”  ICCS is very grateful to Mark for his longstanding involvement with ICCS, and for his generous bequest.

            —Corb Smith, Deputy Director Emeritus of Stanford Overseas Studies, member of the ICCS Advisory Board

After reading so many heartfelt tributes posted some time ago, I feel like both a latecomer and an interloper -- but even my disappointingly rare contacts with Mark revealed the same qualities that others have already praised.  I first communicated with him after he reviewed for BMCR my first book, on the Homeric epithets for the gods; I subsequently caught up with him at an APA meeting and had the first of several friendly conversations -- I was directed to find the fellow wearing the sandals.

His warmth and tactfulness could conceal an almost alarming sharpness of mind -- in an e-mail after my Homeric word-frequency book was published, he pointed in a quietly off-hand way to something he thought odd in one of my numbers.  It was only after looking at it carefully that I discovered, to my horror and acute embarrassment, that he had somehow realized that the count for one word was missing a significant component; I was able to "correct" the error in a later publication, ruefully acknowledging his assistance -- but I never tried asking by what form of divination he had sensed that something was wrong in the first place.

Shortly after hearing of his death, I Googled the name, seeking obituary notices -- and found a story from the Stanford campus paper in 1975, stating that he had resigned the chairmanship in protest at the denial of tenure to three young faculty members -- a gesture, unknown to me at the time, that seems at once deeply principled and entirely characteristic.

Like Don Lateiner, I had arranged to meet him for coffee and talk in San Francisco and waited in the lobby for over an hour; subsequent attempts to reach him met with no response, and I regret that there will be no further opportunities to enjoy his company.  More than any other scholar I've known, he deserves the adjectives êpios and (a term never applied in Homer to a named person but fully appropriate in this case) aganos.

          -- James H. Dee, Visiting Scholar, Classics, UT; Emeritus, Classics, UIC; NEH Fellow, 1989-90, 2004-05, Austin, TX

I met Professor Edwards as a 16 year old sophomore who had decided to major in Classics.  I was awed, not by anything he said in particular or any particular notice he took of someone as uninteresting as me.  More than three decades later, having taken a widely divergent path as a Professor of Orthopædic Surgery, I still think of him.  Such was his understated power.

Mohammad Diab, M.D. (BAS 1984, MD 1990)
Chief, Pædiatric Orthopædics, UCSF

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