Nicholas Frederick Unger

Chair of the Department of Classical Languages
Appointed
2004

The game is afoot. — Sherlock Holmes

Education

B.A.
Yale University

M.A.
University of California - Berkeley

M.A.
Boston University

Biography

My name is Mr. Unger, and I teach dead languages. When I was at Exeter as a student in the late ’80s, my classmates used to tease me for taking Latin. They even managed to insert under my yearbook photo without my knowledge a caption that read, “Latin is dead, Nick.” I used to counter their gibes by saying how useful Latin was. It taught me English grammar, improved my vocabulary, forced me to think logically, raised my SAT score, and so on. At Exeter, I discovered the real reason to study classics was the heady experience — aesthetic, intellectual and cultural — of reading Greek and Latin texts in the original. I recall vividly my aha! moment during my upper year. “Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus!” wrote Catullus, the Young Turk of Latin poetry. It blew my mind that this dead guy could describe the way I was feeling as an emo youth, and that he did so in a heavily inflected language radically different from my own revealed the almost infinite variety of human expression.

Fourteen years later, I returned to Exeter as a teacher. For five years in between, I taught Greek and Latin at St. Mark’s School, where two important things happened in my life. First and foremost, I met my wife, Ms. Desmond, currently an instructor in English at PEA. Second, I revived a childhood hobby and joined a Dungeons & Dragons gaming group with some college friends living near Southborough. Both inform my teaching at Exeter. Observing Ms. Desmond teach English has challenged me to think how I can apply Harkness to teaching Greek and Latin. Playing D&D has inspired me to bring dead languages to life by role-playing ancient Greece and Rome in the classroom.

When I am not wearing a toga, I serve as the assistant coach, aka Keeper of the Lore, of the boys cross-country team. I live on campus with Ms. Desmond and our daughter, whose stage name when she becomes a rock ’n’ roll star will be Vanth, Etruscan goddess of the underworld.