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Clark Hopkins
LSA Minutes

1895 - 1976

Clark Hopkins, Professor Emeritus of Classical Art and Archaeology, died on May 21, 1976 at the age of eighty, after forty years of residence in Ann Arbor. Born in New York City in 1895, the son of a Yale professor of Sanskrit and a New York mother, he grew up in New Haven and on the Connecticut shore in a happy environment of woods, fields, and waters, a large and active family, classical studies, widely varied reading, and two sports in which he retained not only keen interest but high competence to the end of his life, tennis and swimming.

After college at Yale and Army service in the first World War, he earned a second A.B. and an M.A. at Oxford and Ph.D. at Wisconsin in 1924. Classical teaching at Rice Institute and Yale, and service as Field Director of the joint French-American (Yale) archaeological expedition at Dura-Europos in Syria from 1931 to 1935, led to his appointment as Associate Professor of Latin and Greek at the University of Michigan in 1935. He was Director of the University's excavations at Seleucia-on-the-Tigris in 1936 and 1937, and of its excavation at Apollonia, Libya, near the end of his active career, in 1964 and 1965. His book on The Christian Church at Dura-Europos appeared in 1934, and his comprehensive report on The Architecture and Topography of Seleucia-on-the-Tigris was published by the Kelsey Museum in 1973. It is impossible to record here the mass of ex:avation reports and other archaeological articles which he published throughout his life.

Hopkins was a Senior Fulbright Fellow to Greece and Annual Professor at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in 1950-51. He served his country again for three years during World War II as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army. He was a member of the American Oriental Society, the American Philological Association, the Archaeological Institute of America, a corresponding member of the German Archaeological Institute, and a member of the Managing Committee of the American School of Classical Studies Athens. He was also member of Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Delta Phi, the Oxford Society, the American Association of the University Professors, the Scientific Club and the Dunworkin Club.

These manifold accomplishments and affiliations, which would have satisfied the ambitions of most men, were only a beginning for Clark Hopkins. Six other activities, three of them only begun after his retirement in 1966, call for specific mention:

He told and wrote for his children and grandchildren a number of tales, some of which were published under the pseudonym of Roy Lee and gained a considerable public.

He was one of the founders and longest-lived members of the Flounders, an informal swimming group which met for water polo and other games three times a week. Legendary tales are still told about Hopkins' prowess in the water and the terror he struck into men half his age by the strength and ferocity of his attack. He did not subside into relatively harmless water sports until his mid-70's.

He invented the Great Books Program at the University of Michigan in 1946, after returning from the War, and ran it and taught in it for many years. It had little in common with the dogmatic or otherwise ideological tendencies of some Great Books programs elsewhere, but was a witness to Hopkins' lifelong belief in the educational value and vitality of great literature, especially classical literature.

In 1968 Professor and Mrs. Hopkins were guests of the University of Michigan Alumni on a sesquicentennial round-the-world cruise, he as staff lecturer and tour guide. It was characteristic of him that he improvised a Great Books course for this new audience shortly after they sailed, and taught it with great enthusiasm and gclat. It was a shipboard discussion of Herodotus in this context that made the alumni realize -- not for the first time, we trust -- that not all professors are stuffy and the Classics are not a stuffy subject.

Between 1966 and 1973 Clark Hopkins researched, organized and acted as host for three television seris which were produced by the U of M Television Center. The first of these, THE LIVING PAST, narrated the flowering of the classical cultures of Greece and Rome; the second, AFTER EDEN, delineated the history of man's 10,000 years in the Near East, especially in the Fertile Crescent, from the beginnings of civilization to the current Arab-Israeli conflict; the third, A RIVER OF HISTORY, placed on view the development of Western man from the ancient Mediterranean cultures to that of the High Middle Ages in 13th-century France. At the time of his death Hopkins was beginning the preparation of a fourth series which would have carried the story down through the Renaissance. The three series which he did complete--forty half-hour programs in all--were telecast by at least 90 stations from coast to coast and were seen, at a conservative estimate, by 2,000,000 viewers.

In his last years Clark Hopkins took up another quest. Not only in his capacity as a member of the President's Commission on Aging, but in forums and on numerous other occasions he spoke and wrote with characteristically modest, quiet intensity of the great issues of death and the right to die with dignity. His own life and death were exemplars of these classical, now all but forgotten, themes.

Hopkins married Susan Mary Sullivan in Madison, Wisconsin in 1926. They had one son, Dr. Cyrus C. Hopkins of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, and one daughter, Mary Sue (Mrs. William D. Coates of Hinsdale, Illinois). He is survived by three brothers, Francis W., Howard, and Edward L., and by three grandchildren.

Clark Hopkins was an unassuming man, so modest that many of his acquaintances had no idea of his farflung interests and achievements. He was a man of quiet dignity and unfailing good humor, steadfast in friendship, gracious and considerate to all he met, pertinaciously devoted to the things he perceived as good and true and beautiful. Athlete, scholar, teacher, gentleman, he lived the good life and left a memorial which will not soon be forgotten in the hearts of his friends.