Baker Academic

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Memories of Alan Segal

I did not know Alan Segal well. We were collaborating with him on this project when I learned of the illness that eventually took his life. I can say that he was kind, generous, and helped me navigate a few awkward "professional" moments. Moreover, he had very little to gain by being kind to me. He didn't know me from Adam when we began our project.  Understandably, he graciously withdrew his name from our roster, but remained open to emails and continued to offer guidance when I asked. It was only a few months after my last correspondence with Alan when I read the news of his passing.

Yesterday, Jared Calaway shared his memories of Alan in the comments section of our book giveaway. I felt that this deserved better visibility:

My reflections of Alan Segal as his final Ph.D. student. 
Alan was a brilliant man. He was the stereotypical absent-minded professor with his head in the clouds. Often I would walk into his office to discuss my research projects with him, and he seemed to be in another world. Nonetheless, months later he could quote what I said to him back to me verbatim. Who knows how many languages he knew!? He could recite poetry and/or order a meal in most of them. As an advisor, he let his students develop their own ideas and follow them wherever they led. That is, one thing I really appreciated was that he was not trying to create carbon copies of himself or make us elaborate his ideas, but was their to guide our very different projects to develop as independent scholars. Perhaps the greatest quality he inculcated in each of us is to develop an insatiable curiosity and if that meant that for our research we had to transverse usually disparate fields of Dead Sea Scrolls, New Testament, Rabbinics, Early Christianity, etc., so be it. 
That is, in my opinion, one of the greatest legacies of his own research. From Two Powers to Rebecca's Children to Paul the Convert, he pursued his research with little regard to traditional scholarly boundaries. For him, to focus exclusively on Christianity or Judaism in antiquity was at best a simple anachronism; at worst, bad history. In an era of scholarship in which are projects are increasingly smaller, focusing on our little boxes (NT, DSS, etc.), he taught us to think big. I only hope I can carry on that legacy as best I can.
Thank you, Jared.


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