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James R. Wheeler

Professor, Columbia College

Centurion, 1897–1918

Full Name James Rignall Wheeler

Born 15 February 1859 in Burlington, Vermont

Died 9 February 1918 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Buried Greenmount Cemetery, Burlington, Vermont

Proposed by Henry Drisler and Ogden N. Rood

Elected 6 March 1897 at age thirty-eight

Century Memorial

It is the life work of men such as James Rignall Wheeler which stands out as one of the most potent arguments against the movement to sweep away study of the classics from the college curriculum. Professor Wheeler embodied in his career the breaking away from the old-time method of instruction which made the course in Latin and Greek a study of paradigms and construction. Archæology, classic art, and the every-day life of two thousand years ago, so similar in many of its aspects to our own, were to him an inseparable part of the teaching of the languages; and his pupils did not have to wait, as did the pupils of so many other classical instructors, for their own return to the classic texts, after their college work was over, in order to grasp the inner meaning and the literary beauty of what had previously been only an exercise in parsing. Professor Wheeler studied long in Athens itself, as well as in the German universities. He taught in Johns Hopkins, Harvard and Vermont University, but his real life work fell in the period of nearly a quarter-century during which he held the chair of Greek literature, archæology and art at Columbia.

Whoever knew Professor Wheeler will bear witness to the sweetness of his disposition, to his kindliness of thought and manner, to his absence of self-seeking and unfailing courtesy. Along with a certain reserve in his cordial manner, he possessed with his intimates a genuine sense of humor; with which came a power of retort, rarely used but powerful when employed. “It was good for students,” so his Columbia associates passed judgment on the career of their colleague, “merely to come into contact with a man of that stamp.”

Alexander Dana Noyes
1919 Century Association Yearbook