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In the Spring of 1998 I was contemplating the next Greek tragedy to be discussed in my class at the University of Missouri-Columbia, when Victor Estevez came in to chat. He was preparing to retire early for health reasons and was interested in our plans for his retirement celebration. "I want a big party," he told me, "but when Gene retires, he deserves something more. He is a scholar of international renown, and should have a symposium or Festschrift." Hence this idea was born, and I am saddened that Victor did not live to see his own much-anticipated party (he died on August 16, 1998) nor the fruition of his idea to honor Gene.
The above anecdote both illustrates how this project got started as well as in what high regard people who know and know of Gene hold him. I first met him in the Spring of 1978 when I visited the University of Missouri-Columbia as a prospective grad student. He gave me a painstakingly thorough tour of the library, sure that everyone treasured books as much as he did, and that this one tour of the library would convince me that UMC was the school to choose. Perhaps it was the library that did it, but I like to think it was Gene and the other people in the Department of Classical Studies that made my choice an easy one. I was fortunate to take many classes with him, serve as a grader for him, get to know him and his family, and finally return to the department, after getting my PhD at the University of Washington, and relate to him as a colleague. Some readers of this may not have known Gene as long; many have known him longer. As the organizer of this communal effort, I get to share a few anecdotes out of the thousands that others have.
In an early Aristophanes class, where as new graduate students we minced our way through The Birds, we were amazed and chagrined as Gene could balance his checkbook while we stumbled out a translation. He corrected us frequently, made pertinent comments on the Greek grammar and the subject matter of the passage, all without looking at the text. This is the same class that was invited on a bird watching expedition when our knowledge of the different species cited in Aristophanes proved woefully inadequate. I remain certain to this day that he has complete texts of numerous Greek authors floating in his head, waiting to be called upon. Never at a loss for a pithy quote, I still remember him quoting Herodotus as we both gazed out at a lovely snowstorm: "It's raining feathers."
The regular entertaining of graduate students and faculty in the department in his home was always appreciated and is still remembered. He and his wife Carol adopted those of us in need, providing storage for precious possessions, advice about travel to their beloved Greece, and their famous egg nog at Christmas time. All this along with raising two wonderful and successful children: Michael and Helen.
I have known Gene as a professor, colleague, and friend and can never hope to describe how much he has meant to me in each role. I could certainly never dare to give voice to the gratitude of others, but I hope this project will serve to remind him of our esteem, and as Horace put it, perhaps it will raise him to the stars. At least, thanks to the Internet, somewhere in the aether!
After that initial discussion with Victor Estevez in the Spring of 1998 I began contacting possible contributors. There were many who said yes, and many others who had to decline due to other pressing matters that appear in the academic world and life in general. Several had to drop out along the way, which is not unusual in a project such as this, but all those who wanted to contribute an article but were unable, contributed in other, important ways. A few served as referees, some acted as advisors in their field of expertise, many provided support, suggestions and even money. Below is a list of people that deserve thanks. They know what they have given to this project and I hope they realize how grateful I am to them, along with Gene and all the other participants in this endeavor. Everyone involved showed a great deal of patience and faith in the idea that this would actually come into being in one guise or another. To you all, and of course, to Gene, I say, Thank You.
My thanks especially go to Pamela Draper, Anne Mahoney, Ross Scaife, and Robert Seelinger. Without their guidance, help and support, this project would never have reached completion!