Greek angels make Jean a Master of Arts at 88

Published 04 October 2012

Jean Luxford, who took up the study of classical Greek in retirement, will celebrate her 89th birthday just weeks after graduating from the University of New England with a Master of Arts (Honours) degree in Greek.

She travelled from her home on the outskirts of Melbourne to graduate at one of UNE’s Spring Graduation ceremonies last weekend.

It was her second experience of a UNE graduation ceremony, having graduated from the University – when she was 80 – with a BA (Honours) degree in Greek.

Completing her Master’s thesis was “very interesting – but hard work”, she said. It involved a study of ancient Greek inscriptions to test a theory that their references to “angels” could have been influenced by memories of the divine messengers of Homer and the Greek dramatists, or those of the Greek Old Testament.

Her study showed, in fact, that most of the references invoked local, indigenous “angels” or the popular goddess Hecate rather than Homeric or Biblical divine messengers.

The “hard work” involved was physical as well as mental. “I borrowed a lot of books from libraries in Melbourne, and had to cart them back home on the train,” she said.

Her supervisor on the project was Greg Horsley, UNE’s Professor of Classics and Ancient History. “Greg provided me with details of some of the inscriptions, and gave me a lot of helpful advice,” Jean said. Her second supervisor was Greg Stanton, who taught Classics and Ancient History at UNE for many years and who remains actively involved in an adjunct role.

She and Greg Horsley first met at La Trobe University in Melbourne, where Jean enrolled in a Graduate Diploma program (including Greek) after retiring from her career as an infants teacher, and where he was working before his move to Armidale. “I kept up my Greek (and did a year of Hebrew),” Jean recalled, “and then, when Greg said that I could study at UNE part-time and by distance education, and stay at a University college when I travelled up to Armidale for residential schools, I decided to give it a go.”

Now, after gaining BA (Honours) and MA (Honours) degrees from UNE, she’s pursuing further studies at the United Faculty of Theology in Melbourne.

Jean’s niece Elizabeth Milgate and Elizabeth’s husband Geoff also travelled to Armidale last week to help Jean celebrate her graduation. Another niece, Kathy Moignard, completed an Honours degree in Latin through UNE some years ago, and is now studying for a UNE doctorate in Classics (Greek and Latin).

Jean found the staff of UNE’s Research Services office particularly helpful during the course of her Master’s degree studies, mentioning with appreciation the care and guidance given her by Stephanie Hamilton.

THE PHOTOGRAPH of Jean Luxford displayed above expands to include Professor Greg Horsley.