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Diskin William Clay ’60

A picture of Diskin Clay

Diskin William Thomas Clay ’60, June 9, 2014, at home in Durham, North Carolina. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Reed with a BA in literature, Diskin went on to the University of Montpellier in France on a Fulbright grant, and then to the American School of Classical Studies in Greece. He earned a PhD in classics from the University of Washington in 1967 and taught classics and humanities at Reed in 1966–69. His career included positions at Haverford, Johns Hopkins, Vassar, and CUNY, and in France, Greece, and Italy. In 1990, he joined the faculty at Duke, and became R.J.R. Nabisco Distinguished Professor of Classical Studies.

“Diskin was one of the most prolific and wide-ranging scholars of his generation,” wrote Prof. Walter Englert [classics 1981–]. “His primary research and publication interests were in ancient philosophy (Socrates, Plato, Epicurus, and Lucretius) and poetry (Greek lyric poetry and Greek tragedy), but his scholarly interests extended far beyond those topics. He had significant archaeological and epigraphical experience in Athens, Cyprus, Paros, Thasos, and Turkey, and was a distinguished translator of works by Sophocles, Euripides, Plato, Lucian, and others. His intellectual interests were not confined to the ancient world. He also published on Dante, the reception of Plato in Renaissance Italy, Francis Bacon, John Locke, C.P. Cavafy, and George Seferis. Diskin’s greatest strength as a scholar was his ability to combine superb close readings of texts with a deep knowledge of the cultural contexts in which those texts were written.”

Diskin is survived by his wife, Andrea Purvis; daughters Andreia, Hilary, and Christine; five grandchildren; a sister and brother; and former spouses Jenny Strauss Clay ’62 and Sarah Clark Clay. A memorial symposium is planned at Duke in November 2014.

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2014

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