On Monday 6 December, family, friends, former colleagues, and College staff gathered to celebrate the life of Professor Emerita Beryl Rawson.
Professor Emerita Beryl Rawson was born on 24 July 1933 in Innisfail, Queensland. She began her scholarly career studying with a State Government Scholarship at the University of Queensland. At the end of her Honours year she was appointed a junior lecturer in the Classics department. In 1961 she gained her PhD from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, where she had been studying on a travelling scholarship. On completion of her doctorate she returned to the University of Queensland as a lecturer.
Bruce Marshall, a long time friend and classics colleague of Professor Rawson’s, was one of the speakers for the celebration. He discussed her contribution to the academic world, with particular reference to her work in the field of Classics.
Her distinguished career at the Australian National University began in 1964, when she was appointed senior lecturer in Classics. From 1981-1986 she served as the Dean of the Faculty of Arts at ANU and in 1989 was appointed Professor of Classics. Retiring in 1998, she stayed closely connected to the ANU, first as a Visiting Fellow and later as an Adjunct Professor. She was a staunch champion of Classics and the Humanities. She sponsored an annual School of History lecture series, named in honour of her late husband, the historian Allan Martin. Her mentoring of young scholars, especially women, was widely known and respected, and reflected her belief in leading by example. She was the first woman to serve as President of the Australian Historical Association.
The second speaker of the morning was Fiona Crowe who flew in from Perth, WA to participate in the proceedings. Fiona Crowe was a former student of Professor Rawson’s and knew her to be a passionate and dedicated mentor. Ms Crowe enthralled guests with her description of Beryl’s teaching and academic abilities. As a gesture of appreciation, Ms Crowe organised guests to stand and applaud in honour of the late Professor.
As well as a celebration of the academic contribution of Beryl Rawson to ANU and to Classics, the morning served as recognition of her latest work. Beryl Rawson was renowned for her path-breaking research in Ancient History. She built a new picture of family life in the early Roman Empire by pioneering the systematic analysis of mass funerary inscriptions. These inscriptions commemorated slaves and freedmen, their wives and children. They provided a window on the lives of men, women and children of all classes, and her work showed how they could be used to move well beyond the limits of traditional literary sources. Her sensitive chronicling of family life, including the place of childhood and children, was pivotal in establishing the new field of studies of the family in the Ancient World.
Professor Rawson’s many publications include:
The Politics of Friendship: Pompey and Cicero, 1978
The Family in Ancient Rome, 1987
Marriage, Divorce, and Children in Ancient Rome, 1996
The Roman Family in Italy: Status, Sentiment, Space, 1999
Children and Childhood in Roman Italy, 2005
She recently completed editing A Companion to Families in the Greek and Roman Worlds, which draws together the latest scholarship in the field. As part of Monday’s celebrations, this work was launched by Professor Emeritus Graeme Clarke.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Chubb officially recognized the naming of the Beryl Rawson Building in her honour.
The proceedings took place in a specially created marquee-style pavilion and afterwards out the front of the Beryl Rawson Building. Guests were able to discuss Professor Rawson’s achievements and many visited the Classics museum. The morning was a fitting celebration of the life of one of ANU's most well respected members.