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Touching History

Hugh Downs student snapshot photo

Hugh Downs '19

An avid history aficionado, Hugh Downs ’19 discovered his love for the classics while taking a class on Ovid at Dickinson. Enhanced by an incredible study abroad experience that included Bath, England, Carthage and Rome, he found ancient history brought to life. And thanks to a Dana Research Assistantship, he had the opportunity to do student-faculty research with Christopher Francese, the Asbury J. Clarke Professor of Classical Studies, working to create a modern digital edition of a 16th-century Portuguese text, an experience he hopes will promote him toward his goal of becoming a research librarian.


Narberth, Pennsylvania.


Classical studies and history.

Clubs and organizations:   

Junkyard Turkeys Ultimate Frisbee, Men’s Club Volleyball and Latin Club.


John Dickinson Scholarship, Alpha Lambda Delta, Eta Sigma Phi, Phi Alpha Theta and Dean’s List.

Favorite book:

The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Favorite movie:

In Bruges.

On choosing Dickinson:     

I was deciding between Dickinson and Franklin & Marshall, but after visiting both, I liked Dickinson’s campus a lot more, and thought that I would fit in better here. Being awarded the John Dickinson Scholarship also helped!

Favorite class/learning experience:

The Latin class I took on Ovid with Professor Christopher Francese in the spring of my first year. It was fun to read all the myths, and it’s why I’m a classical studies major today.

Favorite place on campus:

East College.

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Caprese chicken.

On choosing a major:    

I’ve wanted to study history since sixth grade, so I knew going into college that that was what I wanted to major in, but I didn’t originally plan on doubling up with classics. I had taken Latin throughout middle and high school but never really considered it as something I would want to pursue further after graduating. However, after taking a class on Ovid with Professor Francese to fulfill the language requirement, I realized that I really enjoyed reading Latin, and I didn’t want to stop, so I declared it as a double major the following fall.

If I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, it would be …

… Peter the Great.

As I kid, I wanted to be …

… a knight.

Favorite professor:

[Assistant Professor of Classical Studies] Scott Farrington. He is super helpful, provides great feedback and has a great sense of humor, so his classes are always entertaining!

On studying abroad:

I studied abroad last fall in Bath, England, on a partner program. This was the first time I’d been out of the country, so the highlight of my experience was getting to travel. As a classics major and Roman-history nut, my favorite trip was to Carthage (in Tunisia) and Rome, because I’d read so much about these places but had never gotten to see them in person.

Post-Dickinson plans:  

I’d like to get a master’s in library science and become a research librarian, but I want to take a year or two off first to work.

In a perfect world …   

The cafeteria would always have two lines open so there would never be a long wait to get food.
My little-known hobby/talent:  

I can fit an entire cupcake in my mouth.

Describe Dickinson in one sentence:

Dickinson is what you make of it.
About research projects:

This past summer, I received a Dana Research Assistantship to help Professor Francese create a modern digital edition of the 16th-century Portuguese text, Historicum Indiarum, written by a Jesuit missionary named Maffeius. The work was written in Latin and provides a history of the Portuguese colonial empire from about 1400 to around the mid-1500s. My job was basically to use the original Latin text and create an index of all the peoples and places that are mentioned in the text with any information I could find that would help ID them for a modern audience. At times, this process was frustrating, and I hit a lot of dead ends, but I learned that research could also be incredibly rewarding and satisfying as well, especially when you finally find what you were looking for.

Most important thing I’ve learned so far:    

It’s OK to admit when you aren’t doing well and to ask for help.

Read more Student Snapshots.



Published May 1, 2019