Rex Wallace Retires
Friday, June 1, 2018
Friday, June 1, 2018
Prof. Rex Wallace retired in May of 2018 after 33 years at UMass. Rex joined the Classics department in 1985 after receiving his Ph.D. in Linguistics from The Ohio State University and after spending a year at the American Academy in Rome as the Oscar Broneer Fellow in Classical Studies. Prior to beginning his doctorate, Rex earned a B.A. in Latin and an M.A. in Classical languages from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Rex and his wife, fellow classicist Maureen Ryan, met playing softball at OSU. Maureen had three children when they met, who are all now grown.
Rex grew up in central Nebraska; it was his high school Latin teacher, Dennis Thacker, who got him excited about ancient languages. At OSU, he found his calling in an introduction to linguistics course; his interests subsequently extended to languages of pre-Roman Italy, their writing systems, linguistic structure, and historical development. His lengthy list of publications ranges from the analysis of verb forms in Latin and Oscan to investigations of the development of the language, alphabet, and linguistic affiliation of the Etruscans. Rex has authored an introduction to Latin wall inscriptions in Pompeii, as well as a manual of the Etruscan language and inscriptions. Both these contributions sum up the state of knowledge on their respective topics with admirable precision, while offering enough clarity and structure to be accessible to newcomers. In 2009-2010, Rex was selected to serve as an Archaeological Institute of America national lecturer, offering archaeologists and those interested in archaeology a rare opportunity to see how valuable linguistics is for their discipline. He is co-editor of Rasenna, an electronic journal devoted to Etruscan archaeology and language.
With Brian Breed and Elizabeth Keitel, Rex recently published an edited volume, Lucilius and Satire in Second-century B.C. Rome (Cambridge University Press, 2018). Rex has also worked closely with Tony Tuck in recent years, spending several summers in Murlo, Tuscany to study Etruscan inscriptions recovered from the excavations at Poggio Civitate. This work has led to several collaborative projects on language and literacy in 7th century B.C.E. Etruria, yielding publications such as “The Social Context of Proto-Literacy in Central Italy: The Case of Poggio Civitate (forthcoming in Etruscan Literacy in its Social Context, edited by Ruth Whitehouse).
As an instructor of Latin and Greek at all levels, Rex inspired an admiration bordering on awe; his classes on Sanskrit and Etruscan often attracted not only students from all over campus, but also faculty from neighboring departments. Rex also surely garnered the greatest number of attempts to impersonate his deadpan delivery of various memorable quips, catchphrases, and maxims. As Teresa Ramsby reports: “During my last class this past semester, the undergraduates in one of my courses spent ten minutes rehearsing all their Rex imitations, and it was abundantly evident to me that his sense of humor and expertise leave a lasting legacy at UMass Amherst.”
As a colleague, Rex offered department members sound advice, meaningful support, and consistent camaraderie. In recent years, Rex has served as Associate Dean of Research & Academic Personnel Administration for the College of Humanities and Fine Arts; at his retirement reception, HFA Dean Julie Hayes thanked him warmly (if succinctly, per Rex’s request) for his contributions to the ongoing success of the College’s faculty and staff.
In their retirement, Rex and Maureen plan to relocate to Columbus, Ohio and to spend plenty of time with their children and grandchildren. Rex will continue to enjoy tennis, running, a bit of gardening -- and will undoubtedly listen to a wide range of music, from (to name a few) the catalogue of John Coltrane and Travis Sullivan's Björkestra, to seventies garage rock and the solo projects of various punk legends. Rex, rock on and thanks for everything. You will be missed.