“Upon learning of these two surprise honours,” quipped Dr. Jennifer Moore, chair and associate professor of the Department of Ancient History & Classics, “for once in his life, Professor Storey was speechless.”
Known for his love of warm fellowship, lively conversation, good puns, and good drink, Ancient History and Classics Professor Dr. Ian C. Storey retired in 2012 after 38 years at Trent.
“Unbeknownst to him, the department had been soliciting donations to a fund to ensure that his presence at Trent would continue after his retirement,” explained Professor Moore. “Donations were made by individual and collective donors - a great testament to the gratitude that Professor Storey's co-workers and students (both past and present) feel for his impact on their lives at Trent.” The funds will be used to establish the Ian C. Storey Visiting Lecturer Fund, to continue Prof. Storey’s tradition of bringing internationally-renowned scholars to inspire students in both formal (lecture) and informal settings.
Two former Trent Classics professors Drs. C.W. (Toph) Marshall and George Kovacs surprised Prof. Storey with a Festschrift (honorific book) that they had edited and presented to him at his retirement reception: No Laughing Matter: Studies in Athenian Comedy (published through Bloomsbury Press). “Ian has been a huge influence on our careers,” explained Professor Kovacs. “He served as something of a mentor figure for both of us and has always been extremely supportive at any given stage of our careers. When we learned of his retirement we felt that we were the guys to do this.” The publication consists of 15 individual papers that were written in tribute to Prof. Storey by eminent scholars in his field of research: old and middle comedy of Athens in the fifth and fourth centuries BC.
The book was a particularly fitting tribute given Prof. Storey’s recent publication of a three-volume set entitled Fragments of Old Comedy, which was produced for the Loeb Classical Library, without which many of the essays could not have been written. At last year’s publication launch, Dr. Hugh Elton, dean of Humanities at Trent, was effusive in his praise: “These volumes are not just a textbook; they are not just an article or a monograph,” he averred. “These are the very tools of scholarship and they are going to be a part of the scholarship of Greek comedy probably into the 22nd century.” He added, “He’s a first-class researcher and a first-class teacher. He really cares about his students. That’s a tremendous combination.”
Prof. Storey came to Trent directly from graduate school, and the connection was one that was to prove enduring and profoundly meaningful both to Prof. Storey, and to the many colleagues and students who had the privilege to work with or study under him during his 38 years at the University. “When I was a graduate student at Massey College in the mid-1970s,” reflected Prof. Storey, “I was asked, if I had any say in the matter, at what university would I like to teach. I replied ‘Trent University’.” Having earned his B.A. from Trinity College in Toronto, his M.A. and Ph.D. from University of Toronto where he was a resident of Massey College, and his M.Phil from Lincoln College in Oxford, Prof. Storey was drawn to Trent’s small class sizes and liberal arts orientation, but most of all, to Trent’s college system. “I have found in the colleges that essential and comfortable smaller unit where one belongs, where one feels at home, the place ‘where everybody knows your name’. Or as Professor McGonagall well puts it in the first Harry Potter novel, ‘Your house will be something like your family within Hogwarts’. For ‘house’ read ‘college’ and ‘Trent’ for ‘Hogwarts’, and the founding fathers of Trent are nodding in agreement.”
Whether it was Hogwarts or Star Trek, C.S. Lewis or the Simpsons, Prof. Storey brought the full force of mythology – both classical and contemporary - into the classrooms of the first-year students he loved to teach. “I prefer to teach the courses at the first-year level,” vouched Prof. Storey. “Here I can communicate my own enthusiasm for the ancient world to those who are meeting it for the first time.”
A well-loved teacher, Prof. Storey is equally recognized outside the classroom as a world-recognized expert in Old Comedy of the fifth century BC, and an accomplished and prolific author of books and articles, including a widely-used textbook on ancient Greek drama, as well as this past year’s three-volume Loeb edition. He has been a member of the Department of Ancient History & Classics (formerly Department of Classical Studies) at Trent University since 1974, full professor since 1988 and head of the Department in 1989/90, 1991-1995, 1997/8, and 2000/1. He has also held a position as an adjunct faculty member of the Graduate Department of Classics at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, since 1988, and from July 2003-2008 he served as principal of Otonabee College, Trent University. Prof. Storey is a mentor and ardent supporter of the Conacher Players Classics Drama Group, founded by Martin Boyne in 1993, which he credits with helping him to realize “how much we could do for the students by actually showing them the play rather than just reading and talking about it.”
In reflecting on his time at Trent, Prof. Storey remembered most fondly those times when academia spilled out of the confines of the classroom and into the parlours of colleagues, into the pubs, and the playhalls - when professors, students, friends and bystanders gathered together, and passion for the subject at hand transformed mere conversation into “furious discussion” (a reference to the informal Oxford University literary group called “The Inklings” to which both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien belonged). “Students talk about how they learn so much studying in the library or in classrooms,” reflected Prof. Storey, “but some of the best learning opportunities are in just talking and interacting with others,” he maintained, recalling gatherings and house parties where lively conversation continued well into the night. “The very last class I taught was on April fifth from four to five p.m. and I let it be known I'd be in the Ceilie at five o'clock,” recounted Prof. Storey, “When I arrived at the Ceilie all my teaching colleagues and 12 of my 15 fourth-year students were there and we stayed there until they closed.”
Prof. Storey’s valedictory address, presented at his retirement celebration, was entitled Sub-Creation and Imagination in C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Prof. Storey’s fascination with C.S. Lewis in particular, has led him to become one of Canada’s foremost experts in C.S. Lewis’s works. “I read the Narnia Chronicles when they came out when I was a boy,” explained Prof. Storey. “My mother was a church librarian and handed them to me and I realized he was somebody who was very much on my intellectual wavelength and I devoured all his stuff.” Throughout his years at Trent, Prof. Storey strove to find and to communicate to his students a balance between the academic study of myth that formed the basis of his long and noteworthy career, and the experience of “myth in all its mythical power” as advocated by C.S. Lewis. “To a modern audience, a myth is something that is false,” he explained. “To the anthropologists or the literary critic, a myth is a story that may be factually fictional but can convey with it an incredible level of power in meaning and significance. Myths address why human beings must die, gender relationships, the nature of friendship, the right of passage growing from youth, childhood, and so on. All of these are told in the story and they carry with them such an incredible amount of power. And as C.S. Lewis and Tolkien said, the imagination can lead you to places that reason can't go. So why do people tell stories and myths? Because it appeals to the imagination and the imagination is a way of appreciating the universe that pure logic just won't do.”
Donations to the Ian C. Storey Visiting Lecturer Fund continue to be accepted. To contribute, go to www.trentu.ca/givingtotrent/donate.php, choose your method of giving, and specify the “Ian Storey Prize” as the fund/designation for your gift.
Posted on Thursday, June 28, 2012.