John W. Ambrose Jr., the John E. Merrill Professor of the Greek Language and Literature, Emeritus, died on November 7, 2014, in Topsham, Maine.
He was born on January 23, 1931, in Grafton, Mass., and attended St. John’s Preparatory School in Worcester. He earned a bachelor of arts degree cum laude, with high honors in classics a master of arts degree and doctorate in classics, all from Brown University. He was a Francis Wayland Scholar and a member of the Sphinx Club honor society as an undergraduate, and was a Fulbright Scholar at the American Academy in Rome during the summer of 1959. He also studied at Princeton University, the University of Chicago, and the American School of Classical Studies in Rome and Athens. From 1954 to 1956, he served with the Army Security Agency in Germany. He began his teaching career at Roxbury Latin School, followed by teaching assignments at Phillips Andover Academy and the Taft School. For 20 summers he taught and served as dean of students at St. George’s Summer School in Middletown, RI. In 1966, he began a 34-year career at Bowdoin. He was promoted to associate professor in 1970, became full professor in 1976, and was named Joseph E. Merrill Professor of Greek Language and Literature in 1977. He served as chairman of the Department of Classics during various periods. Among his published works are Euripides’ Hecuba, The Ironic Meaning of the Lollius Ode, Greek Attitudes, Preparatory Latin and Euripedes’ Helen. He was a lecturer in Bowdoin’s senior center program in the mid- to late sixties. From 1985 to 1987, he directed teaching institutes on Greek studies for 40 high school teachers sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. He co-authored a two-volume Latin textbook, Preparing Latin, published in 1977, and co-authored Greek Attitudes, an anthology of classical Greek literature in translation, published in 1974. He served as past vice president of the Classical Association of New England and former member of the board of trustees of North Yarmouth Academy. He was invited to deliver the convocation speech to the Class of 2002, which he concluded by saying, “I’m a professor, and can’t imagine enjoying any form of work as much as teaching bright young men and women. Heaven knows how often in the past three decades I have thanked my tutelary divinity for introducing me to the classics, Bowdoin College, and the joys of the classroom.” He was an active member of St. Charles Borromeo Church, where he was a frequent lector and past president of the church council whose vision planned and built the current church. He is survived by Frances “Petey” Ambrose, his wife of 53 years; sons John W. Ambrose III and Matthew R. Ambrose; three grandsons; brother Richard Ambrose; and sister Vivian Bullard. He was predeceased by his youngest son, Peter Ambrose.