The CAMWS Ovationes
Herbert W. Benario
More than fifty years ago, at the annual meeting in Richmond (1949), an orator delivered a Latin address honoring distinguished members of the Association. So began one of the happiest traditions of our yearly gatherings, which became regularized over the following decade. The presentation of the ovationes, leading to the identification of the recipients, which precedes the President’s address, has become one of the highlights and most anticipated events of each meeting.
Obviously, the pattern of these citations has changed over the years. Early on, the name of each honoree was given almost at the beginning of the declamatio; more recently, the name has been delayed to the very end, and the auditors attempt to identify the subject of the address from subtle — and not—so—subtle — hints.
The ovationes were not published during the initial dozen years or so. Indeed, there existed no formal framework for their preparation and delivery. During the academic year 1958—59, the Association established a new standing committee, the Committee on Merit, which remains to the present day. Its chairman is the Association’s orator. The Committee’s charge was as follows:
Its first action is to regularize as a tradition the recent practice at the annual dinner of presenting ovationes of distinguished persons, usually seniores of CAMWS and often such seniores belonging to the general locale of the meeting; on occasion, this honor has been accorded persons outside the Association. It has also been agreed that these ovationes should receive public notice through publication in CJ. (CJ 54, 239)
First publication, however, did not occur until 1962, and a lapse of several more years ensued, until the routine appearance of the ovationes began. Since 1966, there has been a continuous run, with the exception of those pronounced in 1973, which fell victim to the Journal’s publishing difficulties in the early 1970s. It has become customary to honor only members of the Association and to choose an annual triumvirate, two from college/university ranks and one from among secondary school teachers, although this practice has occasionally been honored in the breach.
Since the fasti of honorees now embrace the names of more than one hundred persons, recognized over a period of more than a half century, the Association offers its members this brief essay, which reveals, together for the first time, the names of all oratores, all honorees, and an exemplary text (or texts) from the pens of each orator. We may then recall some of our past titans, recognize the power of memory, and, to a degree, become laudatores temporis acti.
If I may paraphrase Tacitus, from the conclusion of the Agricola:
nam multos veterum velut inglorios et ignobiles oblivio non obruet. omnes posteritati narrati et traditi superstites erunt.
William C. Korfmacher, St. Louis University, 1950, 1952, 1955—1961, 1966*
Norman J. DeWitt, Washington University, 1951
Bruno Meinecke, University of Michigan, 1962—1965
Paul L. MacKendrick, University of Wisconsin, 1967—1969
Edward L. Bassett, University of Chicago, 1970—1972
Joseph M. Conant, Emory University, 1973
Arthur F. Stocker, University of Virginia, 1974-1985**
Herbert W. Benario, Emory University, 1986—1989, 1992—2001
Alexander G. McKay, McMaster University, 1990-1991
James M. May, St. Olaf College, 2002-
*Korfmacher was President in 1952, and evidently presented the ovationes in that capacity. There were none in 1953 and 1954. For 1957, the following notation is recorded:
Ovationes pro consuetudine societatis collegis bene merentibus oblatae. (CJ 52, 255)
**In 1981, Stocker himself was honored with an ovatio, prepared by Edward E. Best, University of Georgia