Richard T. Scanlan (2009)

Richard Thomas Scanlan was nothing less than an institution on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. So popular was his course on classical mythology that most Illini felt they had been shortchanged on their tuition if they did not take it. The class regularly closed at 1200, though it might easily have had twice that number eager to register for it. In lieu of a standard lecture, Dick would often dress up as a mythological figure, Hercules, Vulcan, or Venus and be interviewed onstage by a graduate assistant. He was one of the early consultants on the PLATO system, the first successful program for teaching via computers. His Latin Skills course was later adapted for Apple and PC computers and for all the common textbooks, especially Wheelock's. As with Mr. Chips, Scanlan taught generations of the same Illini families, often first encountering them in high schools when he delivered the latest adventures of his own hand-drawn cartoon character "Superlegatus." His courses were so profitable that his department had the luxury of offering rarefied courses like Old Nubian to only a handful of students. Like many a charismatic figure of antiquity, Scanlon was imbued by the students (and particularly the football team) with prophetic powers. So notable were his public reading of the omens at football games and pep rallies (even though his regular predictions of an Illinois victory did not always come true) that he, in mantic robes and carried aloft on a litter by students, was featured in PEOPLE magazine. A permanent deacon of his Catholic church, for which he received the Pere Marquette Award for service to the church in 2005, he was a noted preacher and advocate for the disadvantaged. He died on June 21, 2009 in Urbana.

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