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Giving Back

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    Doris Clifford, widow of Frederick Burr Clifford, looks over the Virgil book that was given to her husband when he retired as dean of the Brown College of Arts and Sciences in 1977. With Clifford are her daughter, Jeanne Clifford Weiss, and Lisa Hopkins from the A. Frank Smith Library Center (standing).

Rare book given as a faculty retirement gift is coming to Southwestern

A rare 17th century book that was given to a former dean as a retirement present is going to have a permanent home at Southwestern University.

When Frederick Burr Clifford retired as dean of the Brown College of Arts and Sciences in 1977, President Durwood Fleming presented him with a first edition of John Dryden’s famous 1697 translation of Virgil. The main feature of the work is Dryden’s verse translation of the Aeneid, which is Virgil’s account of the founding of Rome. The poem was written to celebrate the imperial pre-eminence of Rome under the emperor Augustus.

The gift was a fitting one since Clifford had earned his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in Latin and Greek.

“At the time, the book was a great find,” said Clifford’s daughter, Jeanne Clifford Weiss. “It meant a lot to my father.”

Walt Herbert, professor emeritus of English, found the book through a rare book dealer in Austin.

“The moment I saw it,  I realized it was perfect for Burr,” Herbert said. “It is a handsome volume, beautifully bound and printed, and it ties together two classic writers − one English, one Roman − in a way suitable to Burr’s intellectual passions.”

Herbert noted that the poem evokes the memory of a distinguished past and the expectation of a vital future – the same things that happen at a personal level at the time of retirement.

Clifford’s son David made a special stand for the oversize book so his father could prominently display it in his home near campus. After Clifford’s death in 2011, his widow, Doris, decided to donate the book to Southwestern University’s Special Collections.

Clifford joined the Southwestern faculty in 1958 as a professor in the English Department. When Durwood Fleming became president in 1962, he invited Clifford to serve as dean of the Brown College of Arts and Sciences. After he retired as dean in 1977, Clifford returned to teaching for several more years.

“Dr. Clifford was one of the kindest, most gracious, and most thoughtful academic leaders I have known,” said President Jake B. Schrum, who was a student at Southwestern during his tenure as dean of the Brown College.

Kathryn Stallard, director of Special Collections, said she remembers how much she admired the book the first time she saw it.

“John Dryden’s translation of Virgil is famous and important,” Stallard said. “It was perhaps the most read English translation for centuries, and it is still in print. Having a copy of this beautifully printed and illustrated folio first edition is a wonderful addition to Southwestern’s library collections.”