The “Portrait of an Alum” blog series gives a glimpse of life after graduation, with a particular emphasis on our students’ readiness for the transition to college and how their affections and outlook have been shaped through their experiences, teachers and Christian community at Veritas. For this profile, Director of Communications Sara Kennedy interviewed 2013 graduate Kathryn Clikeman, a Sophomore at the University of Richmond. This is a summary of their conversation.
SK: Last summer, you traveled with your Latin professor and a classmate to Herculaneum, Italy. Tell us about that trip.
KC: Most people have heard of Pompeii, the great city destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Herculaneum was a smaller, wealthier town closer to the mountain. When Vesuvius erupted, Herculaneum was entirely covered by molten lava, perfectly preserving it. While Pompeii has been easier to excavate due to the softer ash (now pumice stone) that buried it, many archeologists believe the Herculaneum site will yield even more complete historical information about the ancient Romans.
Our team’s task was to document the known locations of graffiti in the excavated areas of Herculaneum. In the ancient world, graffiti was not a form of defacement, but rather a casual way of leaving a greeting, drawing a pictograph or keeping track through tally marks. These graffito marks are found in homes and places of business, carved into plaster walls; many simply say ‘hello’ or the Roman equivalent of ‘so and so was here’. They give us a much better understanding of everyday life in Roman cities between 50 and 80 AD.
The modern city of Ercolano was built over the remains of Herculanuem; excavating, exposing and protecting discoveries along the way will be painstakingly slow. Our team’s work on site and throughout this year will contribute to a larger database of research about the ancient Roman world, the Epigraphic Database Roma.
SK: How did you become interested in ancient Roman graffiti?
KC: My love for this work grew out of my love for Latin language and culture – which is actually pretty new. I hated Latin from 4th – 6th grade when I was homeschooled, was neutral to it during my first few years at Veritas, but by 10th grade, I was absolutely hooked. Our Latin courses at Veritas prepared me well enough to enter the University of Richmond’s Latin major at the 300-course level!
SK: Tell me about UR’s Classics’ library. It sounds perfect for curling up with a dense, thought-provoking book.
KC: I love it. It was just renovated around thirty years ago. It’s a small room with floor to ceiling bookshelves and old leather chairs in the Classics’ building – very purposefully designed to give students a place to study, to read and to have meaningful conversation together. One of my greatest joys is to curl up in the library with a wonderful old book, hot fruit tea by my side and fill my mind and soul with the stories that have been found praise-worthy throughout the ages.
SK: You know, only a classics student would use the phrase “just renovated around thirty years ago.”
KC: [Laughing] True.
SK: So, travel, tea, great books, Latin study … how else do you spend your time?
KC: I take voice lessons and sing in the Schola Cantorum (“School of Singers”), which practices three times each week. At my brother’s urging, I joined a ballroom dancing group – the “Eight Left Feet” which meets once a week to learn the waltz, cha-cha and swing and I am in the Classics’ Club, which does my favorite thing – drink tea and fellowship in the Classics’ library.
SK: It sounds like you are investing deeply in the “life of the mind” and have found a community of Classics’ scholars to ‘do life with’ – how are you growing spiritually at UR?
KC: InterVarsity has been great for me. I take part in our large group study on Wednesday evenings, and also a women’s small group Bible study. And even though I live in the dorm, I do still attend church with my family every Sunday.
College life has been surprising to me. I really didn’t know what to expect; it was so different from what I’d known before. At Veritas, we debated and discussed everything. We knew each other (quirks and all) – we trusted each other – we were for each other. Most of my peers at UR did not come from schools that cultivated community life – I miss it, but am thankful for good friends at UR.
KC: My parents were very helpful in guiding me through a process of narrowing down schools to those that might best fit me now – and would help me grow. I knew I wanted a school with high academic standards that was close to home, adding the final element of a Classics’ department with a Latin major really pointed me to the University of Richmond.
My counsel is to trust those who know you best, who understand how you are wired and who will continue to walk with you – and to challenge you – as you mature. My parents and the teachers at Veritas were a great help.
Kathryn’s trip to Herculaneaum was featured in UR’s journal, The Collegian, at
You can read more about this fascinating city at the Encyclopaedia Brittanica.