Legendary teacher and scholar Mabel Louise Lang, Katharine
E. McBride Professor Emeritus and Paul Shorey Professor
Emeritus of Greek, died at home on July 21 at the age of 92.
Miss Lang, as she was known to her students, was raised in Hamilton, New York. She received her A.B. from Cornell (1939) and her M.A. (1940) and Ph.D. (1943) from Bryn Mawr. She began teaching in the Greek department at the College in 1943.
She was warden of Rockefeller Hall from 1942 to 1945, and also served as acting undergraduate dean, sophomore dean, and secretary of the faculty (1970–1975). In 1961, she became chair of the Greek department and held the position, without sabbatical, until her retirement 27 years later in 1988.
A revered and formidable presence on campus, although always wearing sneakers or Wellington boots, she was an inspiring, caring and demanding teacher. She taught her signature undergraduate course—“Baby” Greek—almost every year, introducing nearly 1,000 students to the language. Her graduate seminars on Homer and Thucydides set a standard across her academic field.
A prolific and celebrated scholar, she wrote 12 books and more than 50 articles, spanning the fields of history, epigraphy, and archaeology. As a Fellow of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, she excavated at the Acropolis and the Agora; this led to the publication of the first guide to the Agora, four Agora picture books, and three scholarly volumes in the Agora series. In the 1950s and 1960s, she participated in excavations at Gordion (Turkey) and the Palace of Nestor at Pylos (Greece) that led to numerous publications. Her reconstruction of the frescoes at Pylos and her interpretation of tablet fragments in Linear B (the script of the Mycenaeans) were particularly influential, and her later scholarship on Herodotus, Homer, and Thucydides equally well-received.
Lang’s honors included a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship to Greece, three honorary degrees, and membership in the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the German Archeological Institute, Phi Beta Kappa, and Phi Kappa Phi.
Memorial gifts may be sent to Bryn Mawr College for the Mabel L. Lang Fund in the Humanities (make a gift online at www.brynmawr.edu/makeagift). More tributes can be read at http://mabellangmemorial.blogs.brynmawr.edu.
A memorial service will be held at the College on April 3, 2011, at 3 p.m. in Thomas Great Hall.
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