Classics professor left impact on friends and academia, dead at 47

UK Classics Professor Ross Scaife died of cancer Saturday, leaving behind an impact on the lives of his friends and family and on Internet studies in the humanities.

Scaife, 47, died in his Lexington home Saturday after fighting cancer for more than a year. He taught in UK’s Department of Modern and Classical Languages, Literatures and Cultures for 17 years, continuing after his diagnosis in January 2007. Although he improved after chemotherapy last spring, Scaife’s condition began to worsen in December, said his wife, Cathy Scaife.

“He fought it hard, and we all thought he had overcome it,” said Ted Fiedler, the chair of modern and classical languages department.

One of his greatest passions in his career was improving online humanity academics, Cathy Scaife said. Since July 2005, Ross Scaife served as the director of the Collaboratory for Research in Computing for Humanities, which provides UK faculty with technical assistance on humanities computing projects. He also founded The Stoa, Suda On Line and Diotima — three online databases for humanistic study.

Along with online projects, Scaife loved leading classes, his wife said.

“He still enjoyed his interaction with students in the classroom, and he loved when students were excited about Internet projects,” she said.

Throughout his career, Scaife taught classes in Greek art, women in the ancient world, Greek historians, the Greek playwright Aristophanes, and Greek and Latin languages. As a professor, Scaife demanded excellence of his pupils, said Luke DeWeese, a second-year graduate student who had Scaife for a Greek course.

“He was clearly inspired not by academic promotions but by a love of language,” DeWeese said.

Scaife was the father of three sons: Lincoln, 16; Adrian, 13; and Russell, 9. He loved taking his sons to a farm in Lawrenceburg, Ky., to dig for fossils, going to their soccer games and taking them sailing in Virginia, his wife said.

His other hobbies included renovating the family’s 1870s house, cooking and photography. His favorite thing to photograph was people, his wife said.

“He was just interested in faces,” she said. “Not posing, just people acting natural. He liked taking pictures of the boys.”

Even after he was diagnosed with cancer last year, Scaife didn’t stop being the same warm man his colleagues liked, Fiedler said.

“The crucial thing, I think about him as a person, was that he was really generous and friendly, and he was a real professional,” Fiedler said.

A memorial service for Scaife will be announced at a later date. Memorial donations can be made to the Swift/Longacre Scholarship Fund, which provides support for UK students of classical studies. Checks should be made payable to the University of Kentucky and sent in care of Jane Phillips, Department of MCLLC, 1055 Patterson Office Tower, UK, Lexington, Ky., 40506-0027.