Dr. Robert Cape, Professor of Classics at Austin College, has been
honored by the Classical Association of the Middle West and South
(CAMWS) with an Ovatio, the organization’s highest award for service to
CAMWS and the Classics profession. The award was made in Latin during
the group’s annual meeting in Iowa City, Iowa, earlier this week.
Cape was recognized for contributions in promotion of the study of Latin
in Texas and throughout the United States and for his work as chief
reader of the AP Latin Exam, according to Tom Sienkewicz, secretary-
treasurer of CAMWS and Professor of Classics at Monmouth College.
Peter Knox, president of CAMWS and Professor of Classics at the
University of Colorado Boulder, added, “Professor Cape is highly
regarded as a scholar in Roman political history and political rhetoric, so
his devotion to teaching and his advocacy of Latin are all the more
deserving of this recognition.”
Cape has taught Greek, Latin, and ancient history at Austin for 19 years
and has received national awards for his teaching and research. He has
been a leader in developing support for Latin teachers and students
across the country and has chaired state, regional, and national
committees to support classical education.
According to Dr. Cape, enrollments in Latin and Classics are growing in high schools, middle schools—and even elementary schools. Professionals are now designing new curricula and new materials that will keep students energized about studying classical civilization. Part of the increase, he said, is from charter school interest in the subjects, but also a general push to help students develop language skills that will help them in other areas. “There is enormous interest in the classical world right now,” he said, adding that Latin and classical references in Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, and The Hunger Games create a buzz with young adult readers. “Of course, those who know Classics understand some of the secrets in the stories,” Cape said, “but more importantly, authors and film-makers would not use classical material so extensively if they didn’t expect a large number of people to understand it. And publishers wouldn’t publish it if they didn’t expect it to sell. It is an indication of how pervasive the interest in classics is these days.”
“A major challenge for us with the growing Latin enrollments around the country is to find Latin teachers,” Cape said, adding that teachers probably are needed in every state in the U.S. “That’s an area where Austin College has an advantage; the College has a reputation for preparing great Latin teachers.”
“The way Latin is taught emphasizes how language functions in general so it helps students understand their own language better and gives an advantage when studying other languages,” Cape said. “Learning any language gives students an understanding that other people do and have thought differently about the same issues and don’t express them the same way.”
Latin is also recognized as an aid in increasing vocabulary. “About 60 percent of English is Latin- and Greek-based, mostly Latin,” Cape said.