Volume 78
Number 1

Playing by the Book

The Magic of Science

Vaccine Research Center

A Gringa Goes to São Paulo

Emory University

Association of Emory Alumni

Current News and Events

Emory Report



Sports Updates



Newby named
to new post

Gordon Newby, former director of the Middle Eastern Studies Department, has been named executive director of the Institute for Comparative and International Studies (ICIS). ICIS is made up of the Institute of African Studies, Asian Studies, and Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Center for International Programs Abroad, and the Emory College Language Center.

Emory creates
stroke registry

Emory has received $1 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create a statewide stroke registry named in honor of the late Georgia Senator Paul Coverdell, who died in July 2000 from complications of a stroke. Associate Professor Michael Frankel, chief of neurology at Grady Memorial Hospital, is the principal investigator for the CDC grant and director of the Paul Coverdell Stroke Registry in Georgia, which will help hospitals in the state track the impact of strokes and the availability of stroke treatment.

Rollins family gives $4.2 million for Public Health Preparedness

Former assistant U.S. Surgeon General Ruth Berkelman, professor of epidemiology in the Rollins School of Public Health, has been named to head a new program at Emory that will address critical needs in the nation’s public health system revealed by the terrorist attacks of last fall. The Office of Public Health Preparedness and Research is being established through a $4.2 million gift from the O. Wayne Rollins Foundation of Atlanta. The School of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also be receiving a portion of $20 million in federal funding being provided for a nationwide network of centers for public health preparedness.



















































THIS IS JASPER GAUNT’S IDEA OF AN ICEBREAKER: A visitor to his office in the basement of the Michael C. Carlos Museum admires several fragments of ancient Greek pottery in a small box atop his cluttered desk. Despite the obvious age and value of the shards, Gaunt encourages the visitor to examine them and suggests he try to identify the mythological figures with which they are decorated.

The visitor, whose knowledge of archaeology is limited to the Paleo-Indian artifacts he unearthed on a dig along the banks of the Delaware River some thirty years ago, is stumped. He can make out a head, an arm and leg, a bit of wing, perhaps. Gaunt attempts to tease a guess from him, proffers a clue or two, and ultimately reveals that one group of fragments depicts Odysseus and the Sirens, the other Theseus and the Minotaur.

The interaction reveals a great deal about Gaunt, who was named curator of Greek and Roman art at the Carlos last fall: his charm, his boyish enthusiasm, his total immersion in his subject matter.

“Greek and Roman art is my life,” he says. “It’s what I do, it’s how I think. It’s as simple as that.”

The child of British parents who taught in Rome, Gaunt was born in the Italian capital and grew up playing amid the crumbling columns and statuary of the Roman Forum, one of the few places a child was safe from the city’s infamous traffic.

“In those days, you were allowed to climb over columns and jump off old statue pedestals and that kind of thing, so that was kind of fun,” he says.

Returning to England in the early 1970s, Gaunt attended Harrow, one of Britain’s finest independent schools (founded in 1572, it counts Winston Churchill and Lord Byron among its alumni). There, at the age of seventeen, he studied firsthand the collection of famed nineteenth-century Egyptologist and classical art collector Gardener Wilkinson, in particular the Greek vases.

“I began to research them and sometimes would just stare at them. I was fascinated by what they were, how old they were,” says Gaunt, who has recently completed work on a soon-to-be-published catalog of the classical vases in the Harrow collection.

Gaunt continued his education at Oxford, where he earned a master’s degree in classics, then spent a year working at Christie’s auction house in London. For three months of that year he worked on the front desk evaluating objects brought in by the public á la the Antiques Roadshow. That experience, like his previous work with the collection at Harrow, taught him the value of a hands-on approach to antiquities.

“In a classroom, you can learn all about the dates of the Parthenon, the sculptors who were involved in it and what the sculptural program means, what it cost, the civic pride and political subtexts, and that’s all very, very interesting and important,” he says. “But you never learn about the vases, the bronzes, the glass, the silver, the gemstones, the terra cotta–and these survive in very great numbers. There is sort of a split in archaeology between what is taught in the classroom and what goes on in a museum. And I happen to be interested in what goes on in a museum. It is the objects that really matter.”

Objects such as the pottery shards on his desk “are fabulous for teaching. When you have a class, you can hand them round. They are fragile, but if you treat them with respect nothing’s going to happen. And that’s really what they’re for.”

Gaunt came to the United States to work with noted classicist Dietrich von Bothmer, whose study of Greek vases is world renowned. He soon discovered that his master’s degree in classics from Oxford University, impressive though it may have been to his countrymen in England, was virtually worthless here.

“They didn’t believe in what I had,” he says, laughing. “It was a case of characteristic academic pride.”

So he completed a second master’s and a Ph.D. in classical archaeology at the New York Institute of Fine Arts prior to being offered a position at Emory.

What drew him to the Carlos, Gaunt says, was an opportunity rare in higher education. Although the museum officially is some eighty years old, its renaissance as a significant cultural institution took place only recently, with its 1985 renovation and the 1993 dedication of its current home. The Carlos Museum’s collection of classical art includes objects ranging in date from the Bronze Age through the Roman period. The Greek and Roman collections have grown exponentially in recent years and are recognized as an important resource for education and the study of the classical world.

“The Carlos is, in my view, unique, [because] it is a very young museum,” he says. “If you wander through the galleries you’ll see that although there were some bits and pieces that were given by various people over the years, very few of the labels go back to before 1985. Very, very few. [Associate Professor] Bonna Wescoat has been painstakingly, slowly, quietly, building up the collection with the help of Michael and Thalia Carlos. The generosity of the Carloses has made, literally, all the difference. Without their support, we would be nowhere.

“What has happened more recently is that the Carloses have made a very significant pledge to support the acquisition of new pieces on a scale which is really unprecedented in university museum terms. And it means the museum is in a position to seek out and go for the very best of what’s available. We can bring in pieces which are just as good as anything anybody else has–anywhere. And building a collection seems to me to be something which is enormously creative. It’s very, very exciting.”

One such piece, recently acquired, is a garnet portrait of a Hellenistic queen, Berenice II, who married the grandson of Ptolemy I, a general under Alexander the Great and later ruler of Egypt. Though small and incomplete, “the style is sublime,” Gaunt says. Another recent acquisition is a perfume vessel from 500 BC, used by Greek athletes to scent their bodies after cleaning themselves with a strigil, a curved blade used to scrape dust, oil, and sweat from the skin after exercise.

“It is the most beautiful, beautiful piece of design; it has a lovely shape,” Gaunt says. “And it is one of only two in America. The other one was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum in 1923.”

In addition to building the collection through gifts and purchases, Gaunt hopes to enhance its impact through reorganization.

“What has happened is that the collection has grown in fits and starts, and pieces have been bought and popped into the most sensible case,” he says. “But with a tiny bit of shuffling, you’ll get a much, much clearer image of what’s going on. It’s like fine tuning the radio.”–A.B.

Assistant Professor of English/Creative Writing Joseph Skibell has received a 2002 Creative Writing Fellowship in Prose from the National Endowment for the Arts. Skibell was one of thirty-six recipients selected from a field of 1,296 applicants in fiction and creative nonfiction. He will use the award to fund a leave during which he will begin work on his third novel, a “comic epic on the theme of the on-again, off-again relationship between God and the Jewish people.”

Critics praised Skibell’s debut novel, A Blessing on the Moon, as a literary tour de force. An allegory of the experiences of European Jews during the Holocaust, told from the perspective of a slain Polish Jew, A Blessing on the Moon received the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Steven Turner Award for First Fiction from the Texas Institute of Letters.

“Daring in its haunting, often painful honesty, dense in thoughtful observation and unsparing incident, the novel aims for literary status while at the same time proving itself an unlikely page-turner,” Patrick Giles wrote in the New York Times Book Review. “An act of commemoration, . . . A Blessing on the Moon is also a confirmation that no subject lies beyond the grasp of a gifted, committed imagination.”

Skibell received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1981, and from 1993 to 1996 he was a James A. Michener Fellow at the Texas Center for Writers, where he earned his MFA in creative writing. From 1996 to 1997, he was a Jay C. and Ruth Hall Fellow in Fiction at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He joined the Emory faculty in 1999.




© 2002 Emory University