In a way, you could say that University Scholar Jason Gajerowitz came to Baylor University for green and found gold.
He entered Baylor planning to study law, known as a highly lucrative profession. In short order, however, he found his true passion in classical literature and languages.
A Latin class, taken to help him in his law studies, set him on a different course. "I liked it and did well in it," he said, "so the next year I gave Greek a whirl and really came to love it."
Dr. John Thorburn's Honors symposium on mythology and drama took Gajerowitz further into the field. By the end of the class, he had "absolutely fallen in love with the classics."
"Dr. Thorburn was one of the biggest influences for me early on because he fostered and respected my love of the classics," Gajerowitz fondly recalls. "The literature is very interconnected, so it's easy to relate authors and their works to each other. It's actually a latticework of ideas and authors."
He also gained support - and an interesting perspective - from Dr. Antonios Augoustakis, who is from Crete, home of many of the most important antiquities. In fact, the topic for Gajerowitz's Honors project actually grew from a conversation between professor and student.
"We had been discussing Virgil's Aenied and the metal, gold," he said, "talking about how gold has an odd connotation in the poem. Gold was very positive, powerful, the top of the heap. But in the time of Emperor Augustus, a lot of Romans were beginning to question its validity as a positive value in their culture. Virgil is cautious, patriotic," Gajerowitz said. "It would be hard to have lived in a great nation without being patriotic, still he's careful to evaluate the empire's role in light of other factors."
Among the highlights of his Baylor experience are invitations to read papers at academic conferences, an opportunity rarely afforded to undergraduates.
"This allowed me to get a head start in the small academic classics community," Gajerowitz said. The close relationship he had with his professors and other classics students forged friendships and helped him build networks that will carry him through his career.
He advises others to seize their dreams. "I did, and it really changed me. The closer I came to graduation, the more apparent it was that this was direction for my career."
But without the support of his fiancTe, Baylor history major Carrie Roberts, classics might have become the road not taken.
"She deserves a lot of credit for her love and support," he said. When the two high school sweethearts became engaged, he was still planning to become an attorney.
"When I discovered the classics, she encouraged me to follow my dream, even if it was an unorthodox field," Gajerowitz said, and that took a lot of courage.
After graduation, he moved immediately to New York City and began work on a doctorate in classic literature at Columbia University, putting him another step closer to his ultimate goal of being a classics professor.