Alumni CLASnotes Fall 2007
In This Issue:

Campus Views

Sudanese “Lost Boy” Finds Refuge at UF

Peter Ter has a rare appreciation for his college education.
Peter Ter has a rare appreciation for his
college education.
Peter Ter, a political science major, springs to his feet in the living room of his cozy University Heights apartment and goes straight to his large bookshelf.

For Ter, books are one of life’s most valuable objects. “All of my friends joke with me,” he said, thumbing through a book for one of his favorite photographs.

“They say that I will want to be buried with my books.” Ter’s passing reference to death harkens back to an earlier part of the conversation. Just moments before, Ter had reflected on the origins of his long journey to the United States and how he became a student at the University of Florida. “If it hadn’t been for the support of the United Nations,” Ter said. “I would be dead.”

One of Sudan’s lost boys, Ter was removed from his home by the bloody civil war that has raged in Sudan for the last 20 years and which continues to this day in Darfur. He recalls the day that he was separated from his parents. Playing with friends, he looked up to see planes flying above the village where he lived. The next thing he remembers is the bombs dropping through the sky, destroying the life he knew. “I ran with a group of people away from the village,” Ter said. “Because I was young, someone held my hand.”

After a torturous barefoot trek, Ter ended up in a refugee camp in Ethiopia for three years. Forced again to move due to civil war, Ter returned with other refugees to the jungles of southern Sudan. It was not long before the government of Sudan began bombing the refugees, causing them to flee their own country once more. Ter lived in another refugee camp from 1992 to 2001, this time in northern Kenya. The conditions that characterized life in the camps were abysmal. Disease, malnutrition and death were constants.

Despite surviving on one small meal a day, Ter is thankful for one part of life in the refugee camps. Practicing his writing in the dirt, Ter began to learn English. From there, his passion for education was born. Ter was one of the lucky ones: two of his brothers were forced to become child soldiers. Lured from the camp by false promises of escape to the U.S., Peter’s brothers were handed AK-47s and told to fight for their homeland. At the time, Peter was not yet eight years old—too young to join the Sudanese army.

Today, the 22-year-old Ter speaks eloquently about world and American history, as well as discussing the politics of his homeland; in the future, he hopes to work as a diplomat. “Because of all the things I saw in Africa—war, killing, starvation, disease and a lot of injustice—when I came to the U.S., I became very interested in politics. I also started reading a lot of history.”

The fruits of the liberal arts education that Peter has received at UF are evident in the ease with which he moves between subjects—one minute he is explaining the enforcement of Shariah law in Sudan, the next he is considering the difficulty of shaping effective U.S. foreign policy. However, Ter’s own history is never far from his mind. “A piece of paper and a pen can change someone’s life,” he said. “I remember when UNICEF brought books in to the camp...I was elated.”

Classic Success Story: Father of Four Earns Ph.D. Online

David McClister has been awarded the nation’s first Ph.D. in classical studies pursued online.
David McClister has been awarded the nation’s first Ph.D. in
classical studies pursued online.
The University of Florida has awarded the nation’s first Ph.D. in classical studies pursued online to David McClister of Tampa, who successfully defended his dissertation on February 11 and graduated during the university’s commencement ceremony in May.

The classical studies distance learning graduate program was established at UF in 2001 to address the needs of Latin teachers nationwide. It is the only program of its kind in the nation and is the only online Ph.D. offered at the university. The College of Pharmacy has awarded 1,245 Doctor of Pharmacy, or Pharm.D., degrees online since 1994 and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Public Health and Health Professions has awarded 1,164 Doctor of Audiology, Au.D., degrees online since 1998.

McClister enrolled in the program in 2003. As the father of four children and a full-time professor of biblical studies at Florida College, McClister said the program allowed him to pursue the highest degree attainable in his field without putting his life on hold.

“I was already in a tenure-track position at Florida College and knew that progress toward a doctoral degree would be an important part of my tenure application,” said McClister. “However, taking a leave of absence for a couple of years and moving away was simply not going to be feasible either for the department or for my family. I needed an arrangement where I could work toward an advanced degree and at the same time continue teaching and not disrupt our family life too much.”

For his doctoral research, McClister studied the Greek works of Jewish historian Josephus, who wrote during Rome’s first century.

“David has produced an excellent and truly original dissertation exploring primarily how and why Josephus constructs Jewish identity, and also the way this construction of ethnicity interacts with other dominant Mediterranean cultures such as the Greeks and the Romans,” said UF Associate Professor of Classics Konstantinos Kapparis, who served as McClister’s faculty adviser. “I was impressed by the high standard of his work.”

McClister plans to continue teaching at Florida College and hopes to publish his dissertation, as well as future research. In addition to his Ph.D., he holds a B.A. in classical civilization and an M.A. in biblical studies from Loyola University, Chicago.

For more information on the program, visit

Faculty Reads

Righteous Warrior: Jesse Helms and the Rise of Modern Conservatism

Righteous Warrior: Jesse Helms and the Rise of Modern Conservatism
by William Link, Department of History
(St. Martin's Press, 2008)
Available through Amazon

University of Florida News: UF Professor Re-Evaluates Political Legacy of Jesse Helms in New Book
From an early age, Jesse Helms believed in extreme conservative causes, doctrinaire Christian worship and a mistrust of outsiders.In Righteous Warrior, William Link tells the life story of Jesse Helms and, subsequently, the story of a conservative revolution that finally captivated America at the end of the twentieth century. In his early days, Jesse Helms was a newspaperman, a radio commentator and a magazine editor.When he saw television for the first time, he realized the power he could command and, on tiny black and white screens waged battles with everything from civil rights to academic liberalism.In 1973, he was elected to the Senate where he remained until 2003 taking on everyone and everything that didn't tow the conservative party line and literally became the center of the conservative movement, pushing conservative causes, linking up with wealthy donors and ammassing more power than many Senators within memory.One could truly say that Jesse Helms was the conservative party in the U.S. In Righteous Warrior, Link gives us a complete historical portrait of the most powerful American political movement of the late twentieth century and shows how it was forged through the life of a man named Jesse Helms.

From Yellow Dog Democrats to Red State Republicans: Florida and Its Politics Since 1940 David R. Colburn, Department of History
(University of Florida Press, 2007)
Available through the University of Florida Press

Likely to raise hackles among Democrats and Republicans alike, this dynamic history of modern Florida argues that the Sunshine State has become the political and demographic future of the nation. David Colburn reveals how Florida gradually abandoned the traditions of race and personality that linked it to the Democratic Party. The book focuses particularly on the population growth and chaotic gubernatorial politics that altered the state from 1940, when it was a sleepy impoverished southern outpost, to the present and the emergence of a dominant Republican Party.

In the twenty-first century, Colburn says, Florida is a dynamic, highly partisan, largely conservative state at the cultural, social, and economic intersection of the Western Hemisphere. But the transition hasn't been entirely felicitous. Allegations abound that the state is a "banana republic" favoring the wealthy, a piece of paradise that embraces "immigrants, natives, seniors, rednecks, evangelicals, and yes, flim-flam artists and mobile home salesmen. All of whom came to the state looking for ways to improve their lot in life."

Colburn depicts the state's colorful governors at the center of every postwar development from Cracker to Sun Belt politics, from segregation to integration, from boosterism and modernization to economic and environmental crises. As the story of one of the most influential states in the nation, the book redefines Florida politics.


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