Timothy Gantz' first long stay in Rome was in 1965 when he was an undergraduate at Haverford spending a semester at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome. In the years that followed, he was back there as a visitor and also as a teacher at the Center in 1971 and ‘72, but he always felt that that first time as an undergraduate had been especially important for his formation, and he would often refer to it in relation to the UGA Classics Study Abroad Program, wishing for his students that they would have an equally meaningful experience.
He was back in Italy many times, especially in Murlo, near Siena where he was excavating the Etruscan site of Poggio Civitate along with Dr. Kyle Phillips. It was then that he learned and became passionate about Siena, the famous Palio horse race, and frankly, all things Italian.
In 1977, 78, and 79 he took part in the Classics Study Abroad Program as an assistant to Dr. Ed Best and Dr. Jimmy Alexander, and then in 1980 he went as the director along with Dr. Bob Curtis. He was back in 1983 as an assistant to Dr. Alexander and then, starting from 1984 until the summer preceding his death in January 2004, he was the director of the program. In the early years the program included a two week tour of Athens, Greece, and Crete. Those two weeks were always a special moment for everybody, especially Timothy, who was a Hellenist, so it was very sad for him to have to be the one to make the tough decision of cutting the Greece trip in 1990 due to rising costs.
Timothy loved Rome, and he loved Italy. To him the country evoked memories of art, history, good food, excellent wine, free-style living, opera…. He was as comfortable talking about modern Italian art, history, culture and more as he was about archaeological sites and classical topics which were his own fields. He wanted the students to learn about all those things and to appreciate them as much as he did. He would encourage them to attend an opera, recommend sites to see, help them with their travel arrangements to visit other Italian cities, and find out information about unusual things they were curious about—there was no Google or Wikipedia in those early days. It actually pained him if he noticed that someone was distracted while he was lecturing because he felt that the person was missing something precious. On field trips, while young healthy students might get tired, he would march on at a steady pace, apparently feeling no discomfort, he who was not much of an athlete and abhorred high temperatures.
I accompanied him most summers, both as a spouse and later as the other professor, and I observed him as he was directing and teaching, but also as he was preparing for the program, and I must say that its welfare and success were always his first concern. He had very precise ideas about what constituted a meaningful experience for the participants and he did not deviate from that. He took great pride and pleasure in any kind of recognition from the students, but he never compromised his standards in order to gain popularity.
Timothy was first of all an intellectual, a brilliant mind, and a perfectionist. The excitement of being in Rome for him was all about the things he would learn about the city. He would start the summer unpacking the boxes of books that had been collected through the years and he would salute every book as an old friend. Then, over the summer, he would spend all the time not devoted to teaching, guiding, or administrating the program, busy in studying his books and compiling notes. I still have dozens of pads full of his very peculiar handwriting as a reminder of his constant activity. He knew he would never use all the information that he was gathering when guiding the group, but that was beside the point. If I ever wanted to get him out of his hotel room after an especially exhausting day, I knew that my best bet was suggesting a trip to one of Rome's beautiful bookstores, where we would spend hours finding and choosing the books that would become his new intellectual entertainment. Of course, he could have used notes from previous years, since the program would visit more or less the same sites year after year, but his way of maintaining freshness was precisely learning more every time. I wish the students could have seen the subtle ways in which each lecture improved and differed from the previous ones.
The rest of Timothy's time was spent organizing the trip and making sure that everything ran like a Swiss watch. Now, anyone who knows Italy (or Greece, for the years when the program went there) knows very well that Italy is no Switzerland, geographic proximity aside. Timothy would personally go to museums ahead of time to check what was available for view, inquire about opening hours, buy tickets in advance if possible, and check bus and train schedules, all of this for the sake of achieving a totally flawless experience—even though we all knew that this was often an impossible task.
One thing that every student certainly appreciated was Timothy's quick and witty sense of humor, which always surfaced in the most unexpected ways. Yes, there where some stories that every participant heard (a reference to the movie The Etruscan Strikes Again anyone?), but for the most part, as a true comedian, he would never use the same joke twice, no matter how good it was. He used to say that repeating a joke bored him, but humor was one of his most effective ways of communication.
Timothy really wanted students to love and respect the city and culture as much as he did. I don't know if they all understood him and the values he was trying to teach them at the time when they were in Rome. I think, though, that they could all recognize that he was an immensely generous person, that he was very honest, and that he was also tender, sweet, and vulnerable. I know he would be extremely proud hearing students saying that their lives had been positively affected by his teaching and guidance, and by having been a part of this trip.