Graduate Profile: Tom Sullivan, MTS '22

May 16, 2022
Tom Sullivan, MTS '22
Tom Sullivan, MTS '22, Courtesy photo

HDS communications reached out to our 2022 graduating students to hear from them in their own words about their experiences at HDS, the people who've helped and inspired them along their grad school journeys, and their plans for the future.

How I've Changed 

Coming into HDS at the beginning, I think that I was overly ardent to “prove my worth.” The loneliness of the pandemic and the isolation of screens made it difficult to connect with my peers or imagine that we were on the same journey together. That didn’t last long: by a couple of months in, I was so burnt out that I could barely motivate myself through class sessions.

It was the help that other people provided me that got me out of that pit. My love for ancient Greek and for Latin gave me a path forward in my studies, as well as a goal for my time after HDS (more on that below). I couldn’t possibly have gotten there without the guidance that my instructors afforded me. In spite of how attenuated they were by our circumstances, it was those connections that carried me through.

Learning during my second year that I am on the autistic spectrum was an immensely valuable discovery that I know will help me for the rest of my life. Understanding the difficulties that I may sometimes experience in making connections, and the deep need for them that nonetheless remains, has aided me in making sense of the confusion that I have experienced both during the first academic year and during our return to campus.

Although it was not the time in my life that I had expected when I first submitted my application to HDS in January 2020, it will always remain important to me, and I am grateful for everything that I have been given on the way here.

Favorite Class or Professor

While I am a bit leery of elevating one particular "favorite," I must say that spending the summer of 2021 taking the Elementary Sanskrit intensive with Professor Parimal Patil was an absolute blast. Having the opportunity to take a deep dive into Sanskrit grammar and storytelling was one of the most intellectually stimulating adventures that I was able to partake in at Harvard. And while I was unable to take Intermediate Sanskrit during the school year due to scheduling issues, I sincerely hope to pick up the language again in future. For anyone interested in Sanskrit, I cannot recommend the course highly enough.

Message of Thanks 

To Professors Charlie Stang and Kimberley Patton, spending so much time in your classes was a delight, especially during the isolation of the 2020–21 academic year. I will never be able to think of HDS apart from both of you. I count myself lucky to have learned from and to have met you. Ancient religion was never so vital and present as it was when you taught it.

To Professor Alex Riehle at the Department of Classics, thank you so much for offering your course in Greek palaeography! As a first encounter with studies in material culture at the graduate level, it was a sheer delight for me, particularly our trips to Houghton Library and Weissman Preservation Center.

To my graduate instructors, Susannah, Jorge, and Michael, you were exemplary instructors, teaching me difficult material on a demanding schedule with grace, perspicacity, and good humor. If I should be fortunate enough to follow you, I would be proud if I taught half as well as you did.

To my instructors in Greek and Latin literature, Eric and Rachel, Thank you both for your great patience in my fumbling attempts at reading and translating in your classes. I know that my Greek and Latin would be nowhere near the level that they currently occupy without your unflagging patience and guidance.

And to all of my colleagues, congratulations on persevering through a very difficult year, and the exigencies of returning to campus under "sub-optimal" conditions. I am awed by your commitment and dedication, and although our chances to get to know one another were curtailed by the circumstances of the pandemic, I am honored to have met you all.

Future Plans

I will be pursuing a two-year MPhil in Greek & Latin Literature at Balliol College, University of Oxford, beginning in October of this year. My plan is to study principally Greek poetry from the Archaic period in preparation for eventual doctoral research on that topic. I am immensely grateful to the professors and graduate-student instructors, both at HDS and the Department of the Classics, who helped me to pursue my interest in ancient Greek language and literature.

In the meantime, I look forward to a summer in my hometown in rural Massachusetts and some farm labor in the sunshine and thunderstorms. To all of you at HDS, I hope, and trust, that our paths will cross again!