Cordelia M. Birch Fund

The Birch Fund supports select Classics MA students

Dr. Cordelia Birch (Jan 24, 1906- Jun 27,1991) was a St. Louis native and classicist. She loved Washington University, where she began her career as a self-professed “workaholic.” As a graduate student in the Washington University Department of Classics, she produced a substantial MA thesis titled “Agathon, the Tragic Poet” (1932; a reconstruction of the poet’s life and style with a collection of his fragments and an assessment of the caricatures of him fashioned by Plato and Aristophanes) and a PhD dissertation titled “Traditions of the Life of Aesop” (1955, under the supervision of Professor Phillip H. De Lacy; a comparative and stylistic study of the four extant ancient versions of the folk figure’s biography). After her PhD, Dr. Birch held a series of teaching jobs, including in the Texas Public Schools, in a California high school, in the St. Louis Public Schools, at Flora MacDonald College in North Carolina, and finally at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA. The subjects she taught ranged from the classical languages to History, English, German, French, and Spanish; her job at Geneva allowed her to focus on Greek and Latin teaching once again. Within a few months after losing that job in 1969, she rallied to return to research, an enduring passion, and began work on concordances to three major authors: Caesar, Cicero, and Xenophon. For this research, she made use of both the students and the technology available at Geneva College, employing over 20 student assistants over the years to enter the authors’ texts on key cards and earning mentions of her work in academic publications about technology-assisted Humanities research. She eventually published the Caesar concordance at age 83, with Olms-Weidmann press, and at that time vowed to finish her work on Cicero and Xenophon. Her death precluded this, but her passion for the projects is vividly remembered. Her generous bequest to the Washington University Classics Department now allows our students to focus on their technical training, research activities, and acquisition of teaching skills while they are here.