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PROFILE: At UC, This Latin Lover Becomes a Lover of Learning

After mastering ancient Greek and Latin texts as an undergraduate and graduate Classics student, Jeff Brickler is tackling a new language, that of computer programming.

Date: 9/29/2003 8:00:00 AM
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Andrew Higley
UC ingot “It’s Greek to me.”  That’s what most of us would say when it comes to reading ancient   literature – works by Cicero or Virgil – in their original Latin.  For many of us, the same holds true for computer programming languages. 

But neither Latin nor programming is a foreign language to College of Applied Science senior Jeff Brickler, 25, of Western Hills.  Currently an information engineering technology (IET) student, Jeff already holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in classics.

“One thing has always led to another for me,” explains Jeff.  “I’ve just fallen into things.  I guess I can trace it back to being a student at Walnut Hills.  They require Latin of all students, and so, I started studying Latin in the seventh grade.”

By the time Jeff transferred to Northwest High School two years later, he just kept with the Latin as his language requirement because he liked it, he was good at it, and best of all, he had a great teacher in John Michaels, the school’s Latin instructor.

“I was getting As.  The teacher was way cool.  So, there I was at Northwest taking third-year Latin as a freshman.  As a sophomore, I was in with the seniors in fourth-year Latin.  And I was still asking, ‘Can I take more?’  They even approved a fifth-year Latin course for me.  In high school, I topped out with an independent study course of sixth-year Latin,” recalls Jeff, who graduated from Northwest in 1996.

If it sounds like Jeff just breezed through his studies, nothing could be further from the truth.  His mentor, John Michaels, wasn’t able to teach during most of Jeff’s senior year due to cancer treatments.  “I had my Advanced Placement Latin test coming up, and Mr. Michaels gave me a bunch of materials to study, but I did figure I had to do it on my own.  He wasn’t going to be able to help,” states Jeff. 

But his teacher was determined that Jeff should succeed.  In fact, Michaels called Jeff in October of his senior year, and so, Jeff found himself accompanying Michaels to the hospital for his teacher’s cancer treatments up till the following May, reading Latin all the while.  The dedication paid off.  Jeff did very well in both the May 1996 Advanced Placement test and a competitive Latin translation and essay scholarship exam in UC’s classics department at about the same time. 

Jeff won the Classics scholarship, and as a UC freshman in the fall of 1996, he began studying Greek as well as Latin.  Jeff even won a UC travel scholarship to study abroad in Rome during part of his junior year.  Again, it sounds like it must have been easy, but that’s not so.   

Jeff recalls his freshman year as a difficult adjustment period.  “First quarter was a bear,” he says.  “I worked myself to death with 18 credit hours that included engineering calculus.  I got a 45 on that first calculus test, and it was the third-highest grade in the class.  I was getting low As and high Bs in Greek and Latin, but I had had such expectations of myself.  When I got that first B in Latin, I was crushed.”

By springtime of his freshman year, Jeff found his stride and was an A-student and remained so through his senior year, graduating in the spring of 2000.  He also thrived at Ohio State University where he earned a master’s in classics in March 2002.  It was at OSU, in his role as a teaching assistant, that Jeff began working with computers.  There, he was entrusted to maintain class Web sites and had to work with grade-tracking and grade reporting programs for very large lecture classes where students numbered at least 600.  He says, “I really love Latin and Greek and the ancient literature.  It’s fun to figure out.  It’s a puzzle with meaning.  You find that human beings of other cultures faced the same challenges thousands of years ago that we do today.  However, I began toying with the idea of doing something else…Eventually I decided to try computers.  I’ve found that the syntax of languages and of computer programming is not that much different.  There are rules, logic, and a required order to each.”

That’s what brought Jeff to where he is now, an IET senior ready to put his computer skills to the test in the job market.  He’s confident that he’ll do well.  “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in college, it’s that I can learn.  I can learn whatever I want.  I’m good at it, and I can apply the great set of skills I’ve acquired to a lot of things,” Jeff states matter-of-factly.  “I’ve learned how to think, how to figure things out… I know I can learn whatever I want.”

Jeff never plans to stop if he can help it.  “I want to learn more,” he says, “…not just classics, not just computers.  There are not enough hours in the day for all I’d like to learn and learn and learn.”

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