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Elizabeth Clark, Boss


Elizabeth Clark, Boss

Thomas Whitley

A piece by Elizabeth Clark has been making the rounds in the alcoves of the Internet in which I dwell. It is "The Retrospective Self," The Catholic Historical Review 101, no. 1 (Winter 2015), 1-27. In the piece Clark recounts her academic journey, beginning in high school with notes on King David that read:

I. David
A. He lived in a tent.

Clark discusses many of her publications, what led to them, and the shortcomings that she sees in some of them. Clark has had, by all accounts, a masterful career. Indeed, she is one of the reasons we now have a field of "early Christian studies" or "late antique Christianity." I was fortunate enough to attend LizFest almost two years ago, a symposium in her honor that included many of her former students. What stood out to me at LizFest and stands out in this piece is the care that she had for her students and her desire to helps others and to see them succeed.

Of what am I the most proud concerning my career? The contingent of graduate students who entered academia, equipped with their developed skills and interests to teach new generations of students.

I suppose that it is fairly normal to feel as if you were under-served or under-informed at an earlier time and to thus do what is in your power to make sure that those who come after you do not meet with the same ignorance and skills that you did. This is certainly how I feel about portions of my academic career and why I try to do the little bit that I can to better inform the undergraduates with whom I work that are interested in academia. Even heading into graduate school I feel as if I barely knew the field, or what to expect from it. Part of this is my own shortcoming, my own unwillingness to listen I am sure. But Liz Clark has set the bar for all of us, and it is a bar that her students continue to meet in their acceptance of graduate students from across the country, their willingness to engage with them in scholarly discussions and those less so (how I do love Twitter). She is the standard to which we all strive.

Also, she's a boss.