2007 ICC Lifetime Achievement Award: Charles Speck

The Illinois Classical Conference Lifetime Achievement Award was established in 2006 in order to recognize those individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to ICC and to the promotion of the Classics in the State of Illinois over at least a ten year period. The intent of this award is to celebrate special accomplishments for the Classical world over a long period of time. The first recipients of this award, Lou and Marie Bolchazy, set a high standard for future honorees, but we are fortunate to have had many dedicated laborers working in the fields of Classics in our state. This year we would like to recognize several of these faithful friends.


Our first honoree is a native of Peoria, Illinois, and earned a B.A. at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, in 1956. He attended St. Bede Theologate in Peru, Illinois, before earning a Licentiate in Sacred Theology at the Pontificium Athenaeum Anselmianum and a Doctorate in Canon Law at the Pontificia Universitas Laternanensis in Rome. He began his Latin teaching career at St. Bede Academy in 1963 and later worked as an itinerant Latin teacher in eight inner-city schools in the Philadelphia School District in the ground-breaking Africa in Classical Antiquity Program made famous by Rudolph Masciantonio.


Our honoree is one of those special people who could speak and converse in Latin, and has been a strong and life-long advocate of the nature method of teaching Latin best known through Oerberg’s Lingua Latina.


In 1970 he returned to his home state to join the faculty at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where remained until his retirement in 1996. At SIU, in addition to teaching traditional Latin courses, he designed a very successful course on Scientific Terminology and made courses on Classics in translation popular. In 1974, after only four years at SIU, he received the university’s prestigious Outstanding Teaching Award.


During his twenty-six year tenure at SIU, he was a faithful member of the Illinois Classical Conference. He rarely missed attending our annual meeting even though he always had the longest drive, from Carbondale, and he almost single-handedly kept his colleagues at SIU informed of ICC and its activities. Occasionally he was even able to persuade some of them to attend the meeting along with him. We could almost always count on his presence at ICC, even during the infamous ice storm of 1976.


Some of the older timers among us will remember our honoree as one of the first persons to greet us as we attended our first ICC meeting in the 1970’s or 1980’s. He would make a special point of welcoming new members and not letting them fall into the sidelines.


But our honoree did more than attend ICC meetings. He also shared his expertise at many of them. His first ICC presentation occurred in 1972 in Peoria, where he gave a talk entitled “The Nature Method of Teaching Latin” and there were many more presentations at ICC in the years to come.


For many years our honoree also served as associate editor of the ACL Newsletter for which he produced a feature called “In the News,” in which he meticulously collected articles on Latin promotion from newspapers around the country. He often published many of these articles in the ICC newsletter, the Augur. Many of us posted copies of those articles on our classroom bulletin boards and shared them with students and their parents. These articles remain an invaluable record of the history of Latin in the last quarter of the 20th century and are a demonstration of our honoree’s dedication to our subject and to our field.


But there is more. For most of his 26-year career at SIU our honoree served as a faithful attendee of CAMWS meetings and was active in the Committee for the Promotion of Latin. For most of this period he was the ICC representative to the American Classical League and the Illinois delegate at ACL Council meetings. He gave his first presentation at ACL at Western College in Oxford, Ohio, in 1971, on Oerberg’s Lingua Latina naturally. After that he rarely missed an ACL summer institute during these years and kept those of us in ICC well-informed of ACL issues. He surprised many of us with his unexpected arrival at the 2007 ACL Summer Institute at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.


For a number of years he served as a member of the ACL Scholarship Committee, which he also chaired, Other ACL committees on which he served included the National Publicity Committee, the Committee on Latin, the Basic Skills Committee, and the Committee on the Direct Method.


In 1990 he was honored by the Illinois Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages with a Lieutenant Governor’s Award.


It is then most appropriate that tonight we honor for many years of faithful service to ICC and to the profession Charles Speck of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.