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ISSUE 118 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/22/2005

Classics convention hailed as ‘tough act to follow’

By Andrea Horbinski
Copy Editor

Friday, April 22, 2005

From Friday, April 15 through Sunday, April 18, St. Olaf College hosted the 77th Annual National Convention of Eta Sigma Phi (ESP), the national Classics Honor Society. The convention was the culmination of almost a year’s work on the part of Delta Chi, St. Olaf’s own chapter of ESP. Anne Groton, chair of the classics department, praised the convention’s organizers, saying the it was "a model convention."

Preparations for the convention began last spring, after Delta Chi won its bid to host the 2004 convention. At the same convention, Delta Chi’s own Prytanis (president) Stephanie Walker ’05 was elected to be Megale Prytanis (national president) of ESP. While selling St. Olaf as host at last year's convention, Walker said she focused on "the fact that we do have such a stellar [classics] department," including a large group of majors and a committed membership in the Delta Chi chapter.

St. Olaf’s beautiful campus was another selling point. "[I thought] it would be good publicity for Olaf, and we could do it well," Walker said.

On Friday evening the convention kicked off with registration and a reception featuring ice cream sundaes in the Kings’ Room. After opening remarks by Walker, President Christopher Thomforde welcomed the 143 attendees from 25 nationwide chapters, expressing his desire that they not only enjoy themselves but also take the opportunity to learn from each other. The evening concluded with a Certamen, a classics quiz bowl. Although the Delta Chi team lost in the first round, it was the only team to elude a shutout.

The convention continued early Saturday morning with an 8:30 a.m. breakfast in Holland Hall, followed by the weekend’s first business meeting. The attendees heard reports from the national officers. Scholarship and translation contest winners were also announced. Four Delta Chi members, Elizabeth Beerman ’07, Jennifer Starkey ’07, Alaina Burkard ’08 and Ane Kirstine Wynn ’06, were announced as winners of the translation contests.

After receiving bids to host the 78th convention and offering nominations for the 2005-2006 national officers, the convention split into committees to look over various business matters, including bids to host next year’s convention, nominations for national officers, new chapters and resolutions. The business meeting concluded with the reading of three student papers.

Bon Appétit served a boxed lunch and the convention trooped over to Fosnes Recital Hall to hear a musical performance by Catherine Larsen of Hillsdale College. Larsen, who was elected the new Megale Hyparchos (national vice president) on Sunday, set three passages from Vergil’s Aeneid to music of her own composition and played the piano while her friend Hannah Dixon sang.

Tostrud Center then hosted a modern Olympic Games including a chariot race, a toga race and a “friscus” throw, which substituted a frisbee for the traditional discus. The winners of each event participated in a “bougonia,” the ancient rite described by Vergil, which results in the spontaneous production of bees after beating a dead calf. Delta Chi’s calf consisted of cloth and cardboard, but the candy ‘bees” “cooperated by bursting out dramatically, just as Vergil said they would," Groton said.

The afternoon concluded with Dean and Provost James May reprising his lecture on "The Athenian Trireme," in which he recounted his experiences as a rower on a modern trireme, an ancient Greek warship. After a performance by the Early Music Singers and Collegium Musicum, the attendees dressed either semi-formally or in classical costume for a banquet catered by Bon Appétit in the Black and Gold Ballroom.

After the banquet, Delta Chi members reprised their performance of Plautus’ ancient Latin comedy Curculio in Fosnes Recital Hall. In a theatrical mishap, the nose of Palinurus (played by Michael Dow ’08) actually began bleeding, but the cast continued and the play concluded with many laughs and no further hitches.

The convention ended on Sunday with the second business meeting, which included a chapter T-shirt contest, committee reports, reports from the Executive Secretary and the Chair of the Board of Trustees, as well as the election of the site for the 78th convention and the new national officers. In her last official act as national president, Walker swore in the new officers. Megale Hyparchos Larsen, acting for the absent president-elect, then declared the convention concluded.

"A lot of people said afterwards it was the best convention they’d ever attended," Walker said. "Our chapter really shone and it reflected well on us."

Groton agreed. "It was obvious that St. Olaf has the classiest classics students in the country," she said.

Students of Virginia Tech, whose chapter won the bid to host the next convention, told Walker that the St. Olaf convention would be "a hard act to follow."

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