Ross Scaife (1960-2008)

Allen Ross Scaife, 47, Professor of Classics at the University of Kentucky and founding editor of the Stoa Consortium for Electronic Publication in the Humanities, died of cancer on March 15, at his home in Lexington, Kentucky.

Photo of Ross Scaife taken in January 2007
Ross was born in Fredericksburg, VA on March 31, 1960. He graduated from the Tilton School in Tilton, New Hampshire in 1978 and from the College of William and Mary in 1982 with a major in Classics and Philosophy. He earned a PhD in 1990 in Classical Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. In 1988 he participated in the summer program at the American Academy in Rome, and in 1985 was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship for a year of study at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Greece.

From 1991 to the time of his death, Ross was on the faculty at the University of Kentucky in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, Literature, and Cultures where he taught courses on women in the ancient world, Greek art, Aristophanes, and the Greek historians, as well as Greek and Latin language courses.

A pioneer in using computer technology to advance scholarship in the humanities, Ross is perhaps best known as the founding editor of the Stoa Consortium for Electronic Publication in the Humanities. The Stoa, established in 1997, set the standard for Open Access publication of digital humanities work in the classics, serving as an umbrella project for many diverse projects that provide functionality, and have requirements, not supported by traditional (print) publishers. In addition to providing Open Access publication for the work of other scholars, Ross strived to make his own work (and the raw materials behind that work) available freely to others. He was the co-creator of Diotima: Materials for the Study of Women and Gender in the Ancient World and of the Neo-Latin Colloquia collection, both of which are published on The Stoa.

According to his principled belief in Open Access, Ross was always a stern critic of models of scholarship that were needlessly exclusionary in their presentation or implementation. He firmly believed in the potential afforded by technology to bring the highest levels of scholarship to the widest possible audience, and in the obligation of learned societies to make their work freely available to all interested readers.

Ross’s influence is most noticeable in his long-standing belief in the power of collaborative work. With humor, generosity, and a keen editor’s discretion, he worked throughout his career to build working relationships among an international circle of collaborators, for his own projects, as well as for others. As a founding editor of the Suda On Line, a web accessible database for work on Byzantine Greek lexicography, Ross helped to build a framework that allowed a large number of people to work together on a single edition. SOL was founded in 1998 at a time when such large-scale collaborative editing was rare, if not unheard of. The influence of the SOL is still being felt as the next generation of collaborative editing tools are being developed. Ross had long-term associations with Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies, the Perseus Project, and more recently with the Digital Classicist. Those who knew him will remember him for his generosity and willingness to offer advice, and for his ability to see connections and build bridges between projects and people.

Most recently, Ross was instrumental in forging the collaboration that resulted in the high resolution digital imaging of the Venetus A, a 10th century manuscript of the Iliad located at the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice, and was a co-Principal Investigator of project EDUCE, which aims to use non-invasive, volumetric scanning technologies for virtually “unwrapping” and visualizing ancient papyrus scrolls. Since July, 2005 Ross has been the director of the Collaboratory for Research in Computing for Humanities, a research unit at the University of Kentucky which provides technical assistance to faculty who wish to undertake humanities computing projects, and to encourage and support interdisciplinary partnerships between faculty at UKY and researchers around the world.

His many interests included sailing in the Northern Neck of Virginia, hunting, cooking, woodworking, and photography.

Ross was the proud father of three sons, Lincoln (16), Adrian (13), and Russell (9). In addition, Ross is survived by his wife, Cathy Edwards Scaife, his parents, William and Sylvia Scaife, and three siblings, Bill Scaife, Susan Duerksen, and John Scaife, as well as their spouses and children.

Two memorial services are planned. The first will be held at Belmont (home and studio of Fredericksburg artist Gari Melchers) in Fredericksburg, Virginia on Wednesday, April 2, at 2 pm. The second service will be held in Memorial Hall on the University of Kentucky Campus in Lexington, Kentucky on Saturday, April 12, at 1pm.

Memorial donations may be made to the Swift/Longacre Scholarship Fund which provides support for students of classical studies at the University of Kentucky. Please make checks payable to the University of Kentucky and send in care of Dr. Jane Phillips, Department of MCLLC, 1055 Patterson Office Tower, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0027.

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40 Responses to Ross Scaife (1960-2008)

  1. This is a lovely obituary. Thank you. Ross will be terribly missed. His contributions both as a scholar and as a friend are incalculable. Sit tibi terra levis.

  2. Thanks Dot, for posting this. Ross was a wonderful scholar, a great teacher, and a supportive, approachable, advisor. An immeasurable loss.

  3. Anne Lounsbery says:

    I’m Allen Ross’s sister-in-law. As a humanities academic in an unrelated field, I’m very happy to be able to read and share this account of his many contributions. Our family’s loss is incalculable, but it truly does help to know that Allen will be remembered far and wide.

  4. Sebastian Heath says:

    Ross’ work was a constant reminder that to include and to share lie at the heart of successful scholarship. I look to the Stoa Highlights for the proof of this. That’s an amazing list of scholarly resources and they will remain as a permanent memorial.

  5. Juan Garces says:

    Yes, thanks Dot! I can only join and echo the obvious: Ross was as wonderful a person as he was a bold, pioneering and astute scholar. He is leaving an impressive legacy and will be sorely missed.

  6. Simon Mahony says:

    Thanks for this Dot. Ross and the Stoa have been an inspiration and point the way to how things should be done.

    quatenus nobis denegatur diu vivere, relinquamus aliquid, quo nos vixisse testemur.

  7. Jan P. Stronk says:

    Thanks for this obituary.From afar (the Netherlands) I have gladly used Ross’ scholarly work, notably on the Suda On Line, to which I also occasionally could contribute. I remember his inspiring mails. His ‘drive’ will be sadly missed, though he will be remembered through the great legacy he left behind.

  8. Robin Mitchell-Boyask says:

    One of the highest compliments I can pay anyone is that one can have a productive argument with him/her. I’ll miss my disagreements with Ross very much.

  9. Chuck Jones says:

    Words fail.

    I just read through many of the hundreds of emails Ross and I had exchanged over nearly a decade and a half. What a pleasure it always was to see something from him in the mail queue! I knew I had the promise of good sense, good style, good humor, and generosity.

    Because we inhabited worlds which intersect in far too few places, Ross and I did not meet in person until October 2007 when he asked me to come to the workshop in Lexington. In the midst of his illness he seemed cheerful and hopeful. He was in person exactly as I had imagined him. He was the perfect host.

  10. Chris C. says:

    With all due respect I suggest “digital άθλα επί Ross” in honour of his dead.

  11. JEH says:

    I will miss Dr. Scaife immensely. He taught me Greek and profoundly influenced my life. He was loved by his family and respected by his colleagues. He has left a void which cannot be filled.

  12. Ingrid Edlund Berry says:

    Our heartfelt condolences to Cathy and the children. Ross had so many talents, and used them well!

  13. Peter Green says:

    I remember Ross most as a graduate student of immense promise whom it was a real pleasure and privilege to teach. It’s some consolation that in his all too short life so much of that promise was brilliantly fulfilled.

  14. Graham Shipley says:

    I don’t believe I ever met Ross, and this moving testimony makes me all the more sorry that I did not. But as a contributor to ‘Suda On Line’ I quickly learned to have the highest respect for his achievements. We all owe him a great deal. His legacy is monumental, and will endure.

  15. Mark Lehman says:

    I have worked with Cathy for several years. I had the opportunity to meet Ross only once – and then, only briefly – but his generosity and good humor led us to go on and have an excellent ongoing correspondence on the basis of only a single brief encounter. He encouraged me to become involved in his stoa project to what I can only hope was of some mutual benefit – in addition to the undeniable good it did for me. The only words that come are to say that the time I knew him was all too brief, and I offer my most sincere condolences to all concerned.

  16. Bill Hutton says:

    I’ve got a feeling that wherever Ross is now, there’s wireless. So Ross, we miss you bud. Martha and me and everyone at the Suda On Line.

  17. Sr. Pauline Nugent says:

    Profound sympathies and prayerful remembrances on the death of our UT student companion, Ross! Our hearts go out to Cathy and the entire family on this very sad occasion. In such a short span of time, Ross fulfilled a long life! Requiescat in pace!

  18. Elizabeth Vandiver says:

    Multis ille bonis flebilis occidit.

    For his colleague and friends, for those of us who worked with him on the Suda On Line and other projects, and of course most of all for his family the loss is incalculable. As others have said, words fail.

  19. Rebecca Ford Cavanaugh says:

    Professor Scaife was a wonderful teacher and I am deeply saddened that he has left this world. The genuine kindness that he showed to each of his pupils was appreciated more than he knew. He was the best kind of scholar – gentle, erudite and creative.

  20. Deena Berg says:

    My deepest sympathies for Cathy and family. Ross was such a great character in graduate school, who told it like it was with a good dose of wit. He was always generous with his help and advice, and contributed to launching the Realia Project. I hope what Bill said is true, and he does have 24/7 access to wireless.

  21. Ross, I met you only once in person, but I enjoyed working with you in the virtual world. I have been most grateful for the opportunity offered by the SOL for people who are not employed in Classics to take part in the world-wide community of scholarship. You did so much to make it a supportive group for contributors of all ages and levels of prestige.

  22. Chris Renaud says:

    When I first met Ross, then Allen, we were beginning our first semester as graduate students at University of Texas at Austin. Besides being a generous colleague, Ross and Cathy were lots of fun. I will miss the margarita parties and Texas barbeque and Ross’s wit.

    I am sure Bill Hutton is correct: wireless does exist in heaven and Ross is planning his next project. He is also mixing a batch of margaritas.

    The loss is not only personal but professional. See you one day, my friend.

  23. Amit Kumar says:

    I knew Ross since 2003. I meet him at the ACH in Athens for the first time at the banquet -he was honest, caring and very warm and friendly. My condolences.

  24. Lee Pearcy says:

    The best students are those from whom one learns. I learned a great deal from Ross in the years that he was a student at the University of Texas, and I have fond memories from those days of his intelligence, intensity, and–perhaps a rarer quality–gentility. I continued to learn from him in our too infrequent conversations since, and I hope we will all continue to emulate his selfless example of collaborative scholarship and technological innovation.

  25. Laura Sutton says:

    Dear Cathy and family and Classics friends,

    Please accept my deepest condolences on this unimaginable loss. I had the good forture of working with Ross through A&S administration. It was always a pleasure, and I certainly considered Ross to be one of the many bright stars within the College. Even more so, I was proud that a man and scholar of his calibre was out in the world representing UK and reflecting so positively on the college and university. And thank you for the memorial tribute, which is a testament to the simple beauty of a life well lived.

  26. Eric Kansa says:

    Please accept my heart-felt condolences and this tragic loss. All of us in the archaeological blogosphere have been enriched by Ross’s contributions, and this is but the tip of the iceberg for a life that extended well beyond cyberspace.

    I wish his family and friends my deepest sympathies.

  27. My heartfelt condolences.

  28. christopher colvin says:

    My condolences to the family and friends of Ross. I knew him and Cathy briefly in their years at UT Austin. He was a very decent fellow.

    My sympathies to Cathy and the family.

  29. Alicia M. Canto says:

    I am impressed by so terrible news, and by Tennyson’s words that Prof. Scaife added at the end of his own (and original) web page (
    “Though much is taken, much abides; and though / we are not now that strength which in old days / moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are; / one equal temper of heroic hearts,/ made weak by time and fate, but strong in will / to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
    This is what I wish to his family and friends, that they can find the strength enough to continue, being sure that, as Tacitus said, ‘non cum corpore extinguuntur magnae animae’.

  30. Carol Goodman says:

    I met Ross in 1990 when I was doing my student teaching with Cathy. Both he and Cathy welcomed me into their home with good food, a glass of wine, and abundant wit and good cheer. I will miss Ross’s humor, generosity and spirit. My condolences go out to Cathy and the boys.

  31. Megan Case says:

    I had the honor of having Dr. Scaife at the University of Kentucky for Art History, and I will never forget his teachings. He and his family will remain in my prayers.

  32. Salvador Cuesta says:

    From Spain. My heartfelt condolences. I learnt and I am still learn very much with his work

  33. Jason Lamoreaux says:

    I just found out about Ross’ passing. I’m so sorry Cathy for your loss and for the boys. Tami, Dakota and I send our condolences. I spent many an hour chatting with Ross in his office and at his home. He will be missed.

  34. gabriele alfinito says:

    Levis erit tibi terra, magister optime. Gratias quam plurimas semper agemus quia nobis omnibus antiquitatis cultoribus perutilia quaerendi instrumenta donasti. Pax tecum sit quam serenissima laetissimaque. In aeternum, doctissime amice, ave atque vale.

  35. Christopher J Fuhrmann says:

    I was lucky to take Ross as an undergrad — 3rd-yr Latin. Whenever I read Vergil, I think of him. He genuinely cared for his students, and was always kind and generous to me later as a graduate student. The impact of his work and life is a ktêma es aei. Cathy, I’m so sorry.

  36. Casey Lengacher says:

    Working with Ross was an immensly rewarding experience that I’ll never forget. His drive and determination were limitless and often times the source of mischief. One thing I will definitely take to my grave… as I watched Ross tinker with his Apache/Tomcat configuration… don’t self-medicate your servers the day before Thanksgiving break. It’s incredibly difficult to find people willing to help you restore your blog on Turkey Day. 🙂

  37. Paula Perlman says:

    Ross was a wonderful presence in the classroom and out—thoughtful, mindful, and with dear Cathy a lot of fun. It was a pleasure and a privilege to have Ross as a student and to watch him develop as a colleague. With sympathy to Cathy and the rest of the family.

  38. Dot points out that today would have been Ross’s 50th birthday. I’m reminded again of how much I miss him, and how cruel it is to have lost such a colleague and friend in his prime.

    Happy birthday, Ross. Wish you could be here to see the cool stuff that’s being done with the projects you started.

  39. John Tyler says:

    I am an attorney and doctoral student in Philosophy at Texas A&M. I have found this website to be an immensely helpful resource in preparing my dissertation on Athenian law and government and I will be recommending it to my students. Although I never met Dr. Scaife, I hope those of you who knew and loved him (and there are obviously many who did) to know that his work and contributions continue despite his tragic early passing.

  40. Priyam Chawla says:

    Working with Dr. Scaife was an honor. I still remember his passion and enthusiasm for his work when he outlined the requirements for the latin dictionaries project. It was a privilege to know him and learn from him.

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