Mary Beard ‘over the moon’ at Cambridge classics teaching post

Professor Dame Mary Beard has said she is “over the moon” that a new fully funded classics teaching post has been established at her Cambridge University college, continuing her legacy.

The 66-year-old broadcaster and historian, who is a classics fellow at Newnham College, is to retire at the end of 2022 after almost 40 years of teaching at Cambridge.

The new post, known as the Onassis Classics Fellowship, secures a permanent position for the teaching of classical studies at the 150-year-old women’s college.

The post was created following a joint fundraising campaign by the college and Cambridge’s Faculty of Classics, with donations made by alumni, anonymous donors and a “large gift” from the Onassis Foundation.

Prof Beard said: “I have been privileged and proud to have been associated with classics in Cambridge, and at Newnham in particular, since I came up as an undergraduate in 1973.

“Classics is a subject that is as much about the future as it is about the past, and we need it now more than ever.

“Newnham has a long tradition of cutting-edge research in classics, combined with a huge impact in public engagement going back to the 19th century, with the classical revolutionary and celebrity Jane Harrison.

“I am over the moon that this will be able to continue and thank those who have made it possible from the bottom of my heart.”

Professor Robin Osborne, chair of Cambridge’s Faculty of Classics, said: “The legacy of Mary Beard and her illustrious predecessors can now be continued thanks to this wonderful donation.

“The new post will increase the number of established university posts in classics for the first time for many years and allow the faculty to extend its coverage of the subject in new and exciting ways.

“Not only does the Onassis donation secure the future of the subject in Newnham, but it will also help the faculty to underpin new teaching at masters level.

“The number of MPhil students has doubled from around 30 to over 60 in the space of four years, so it could not come at a more welcome time.”

Anthony S Papadimitriou, president of the Onassis Foundation, said: “We are happy to be supporting the exceptional, internationally acclaimed, and long-standing work being done in classical studies at the University of Cambridge, an institution that has sustained such distinguished professors as Mary Beard and Pat Easterling.”

Prof Beard has already given Cambridge University an £80,000 “retirement present” to pay the £10,000-a-year living costs of two classics undergraduates from minority ethnic groups and low-income homes for the duration of their degrees.