Mary Lefkowitz

Mary Lefkowitz, one of the best-known classical scholars in this country, is a graduate of the Brearley School in New York and Wellesley College (1957, Phi Beta Kappa, with honors in Greek). She received her Ph.D. in Classical Philology at Radcliffe College (a.k.a Harvard University) in 1961. She returned to her alma mater as an instructor in Greek in 1959 and, after serving in various other academic ranks, in 1979 became the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities, a position she held until her retirement in 2005.

Dr. Lefkowitz holds an honorary degree from Trinity College/Hartford (1996), which cited her “deep concern for intellectual integrity,” and also from the University of Patras in Greece (1999) and from Grinnell College (2000). In 2004 she received a Radcliffe Graduate Society Medal. In 2006 she was awarded a National Humanities Medal “for outstanding excellence in scholarship and teaching.” In 2008 she was the recipient of a Wellesley College Alumnae Achievement Award.

Dr. Lefkowitz’s articles and reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Times Literary Supplement, The New Republic and The New York Review of Books, and she has been asked to contribute op-eds to The New York Times. She is the author of Not Out of Africa, 1996 (paperback, June 1997) and co-editor with a Wellesley colleague, Guy MacLean Rogers, of Black Athena Revisited, a collection of essays by various scholars (1996). Because they deal with highly controversial theories about the origin of ancient Greek civilization, both books were widely reviewed and generated considerable discussion. Dr. Lefkowitz appeared on national radio talk shows, on CBS television’s 60 Minutes, and was the subject of interviews in The Boston Globe and The Washington Post. History Lesson (2008), her book about the intellectual issues raised by the controversy, is according to Booklist: “A clear-eyed look at the perils—and promise—of contemporary academic life.”

In her recent work Lefkowitz has sought to restore to the gods to their ever-important role in ancient narratives. According to The New York Times Book Review, the “thought-provoking Greek Gods, Human Lives (2003) is precisely an attempt to write the gods back into Greek myths.” The Los Angeles Times Book Review noted, “It is, among other things, a salutary tract for our times.” She is also known for her work on women in antiquity: Heroines and Hysterics (1981); Women in Greek Myth (1986, 2nd Ed. 2007); and Women's Life in Greece and Rome, co-edited with Maureen B. Fant, (1st Ed. 1982, 2nd Ed. 1992; 3rd Ed. 2005), the standard source book in the field. Dr. Lefkowitz has also written about the 5th century B.C. Greek lyric poet Pindar (The Victory Ode (1976) and First-Person Fictions (1991) and about fiction in ancient biography (The Lives of the Greek Poets, 1981).

During her career at Wellesley Dr. Lefkowitz held fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Onassis Foundation. She was a Visiting Professor at University of California/Berkeley in 1978 and a Sacher visiting fellow at St. Hilda's College/Oxford in 1979–80, where she has been an Honorary Fellow since 1994.

Dr. Lefkowitz's two daughters are both Wellesley alumnae ('86 and '90). She lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.


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Last Modified: December 8, 2009