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Lankford grant supports the joint research of Rachel Preminger '06 and classics professor Nigel Nicholson into the commemoration of athletes in ancient Greece


Student/faculty collaboration is the hallmark of the Reed College experience.


PORTLAND, OR (December 2, 2005) –Characteristic of the Reed experience is the close working relationship between its faculty and students–in the classroom, in the senior thesis process, and on collaborative research projects.

For senior Rachel Preminger, a classics major from Boise, Idaho, her experiences in student/faculty collaborative research, in particular, offer her and fellow Reed students the opportunity to participate in serious academic research at the undergraduate level.

After receiving the prestigious Edwin, Frederick, and Walter Beinecke Memorial Scholarship in the spring of 2005, she joined Nigel Nicholson, Reed's Walter Mintz Chair in Classics, to research "Athletes and Regional Identities in Late Archaic and Early Classical Greece" this past summer. For Preminger, working closely with a professor in her department was a fascinating and powerful learning experience. "It's been a wonderful experience exploring this topic while having the help and support that Nicholson, an experienced scholar and professor, can offer," she says.

Her research with Nicholson was made possible through the William T. Lankford Grant, which, together with the Ruby Grant, is designed to spur and support interactive research engagement of students and faculty in history and the humanities. Over the past five summers, 273 students have worked closely with biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology department faculty on funded research projects, which are supported by dedicated grant programs for research internships. The Ruby and Lankford awards are funds are directed toward initiatives specifically in history and the humanities.

While the faculty member directs the research, the student is an active participant, working full time engaged in research during the ten-week funded period. The Lankford Grants are a product of the William T. Lankford III Memorial Humanities Award Fund. They honor Lankford, who taught English and humanities at Reed from 1977 to 1983 and was a nationally recognized scholar of the works of Dickens.

The Ruby Grants are funded by a gift of the Ruby family to Reed College for support of the humanities. Jane Ruby '33 was Reed graduate, as was her sister, Lucile Brown '41.

Ruby awards funded three other student/faculty research partnerships in the humanities this past summer. Michael Foat, associate professor of religion and humanities, worked with senior Jeffrey Wermer on "Towards the Social-Historical Context of the Pseudo-Dionysius"; Casiano Hacker-Cordon, visiting assistant professor of political science, collaborated with Tara Anderson '05 on "Democracy vs. Democracy: The Democratic Peace Proposition and U.S. Interventions Against Elected Governments During the Cold War;" and Marvin Levich, professor emeritus of philosophy, worked with Joey Cleveland '07 on "An Investigation into the Philosophy of the History of Ideas Through the Poetry of John Donne."

Rachel Preminger and Nigel Nicholson

For Preminger, her research represents a culmination of a love affair with the classics. After coming to Reed from Boise in the fall of 2002, she quickly discovered the classics through the first-year Humanities 110 course. She finds the field exciting because of its close connection with numerous disciplines.

"Classics allows me to study aspects of many fields: philosophy, history, literature, religion, economics, anthropology, art history, and political science," Preminger says. "One of the major selling points of classics for me is the freedom I have to approach material from different perspectives."

Preminger's Lankford award project stems from Nicholson's latest book, "Athletes and Aristocracy in Early Classical Greece" [Cambridge University Press, 2005], and focuses on how anecdotes, epitaphs, odes, and other colloquial tales and forms of commemoration of athletes reflect their respective region's identity. The research, according to Nicholson, heavily focuses on how local communities often used their athletes to increase their stature.

"From this research, we can learn a tremendous amount about these smaller communities,"Nicholson notes. "We're looking at the argument that these athletes are actually taken advantage of by their communities to place the communities on the map. These communities, in a way, seek to piggyback on their athletes' fame."

For Preminger, the research is not only interesting, but also extremely important to the way her discipline pursues the study of history.

"The anecdotes, commemorations, and other stories that make up the body of our research are extremely interesting because they often contradict each other and offer varying accounts of the history of an area," she states. "These anecdotes are extremely important to the study of classics. They give us perspective on the historical use of anecdotes and the value of anecdotal evidence, which represents a relatively untapped area of information."

"We have to think about how did these anecdotes come about," Nicholson adds. "These athletes were promoted largely by their local towns, but the memorials and odes were often commissioned by wealthy families in their communities or by the towns themselves. All the evidence makes us consider the interplay between the family, the community, the athletes, Greek society as a whole, and the commemorations and anecdotes."

After a summer of fruitful research, Preminger and Nicholson plan to present their findings to the Classical Association of the Pacific Northwest (CAPN), a non-profit organization whose purpose is to support and promote the study of classical languages and civilization in the Pacific Northwest, in the spring. The 2006 CAPN meeting will be held on March 24 and 25 at Reed College.

In the end, however, the research opportunity that Reed granted her is important to Preminger because it allowed her to delve deeply into a varied, fascinating discipline with a trained, proven academic.

"Working with [Nicholson] on this project has been a valuable opportunity for me," Preminger says. " My experience has broadened my understanding of a field that I didn't even know existed when I first got to Reed. It has been nice to learn what it's like to be a professional scholar, to have the responsibility to work for a greater, more in-depth project."