Gordon and Hilda Fitch Scholarship

Dr. John Fitch maintains that he is fortunate to have survived his infancy. Born in the middle of World War II, he started life in the East End of London, an area that was being heavily bombed in those years. Once a firebomb came through the roof of his house, and on another occasion a V-2 rocket blew out the house windows, and destroyed houses further down the street.

After the War, and partly in consequence of it, there was a strong movement in the UK towards social justice and equality. One result was the foundation of East Ham Grammar School (EHGS), attended by John from 1953, a school with high academic standards serving the children of this working-class district. Another result was the institution of state scholarships, one of which enabled John to attend university, the first of his family to do so.

At EHGS, a charismatic teacher, P. H. Vennis, inspired John’s lifelong interest in drama and in Greek and Roman antiquity. John pursued these interests at Cambridge University, and later in graduate studies at the University of Texas and Cornell University. He joined the Department of Greek and Roman Studies (“Department of Classics” as it was then) at UVic in 1973, and retired as professor and chair of the department in 1999, having made major contributions to the study of dramas of the Roman writer Seneca.

Outdoor life and the natural world were always important to John. In 1987 he moved to a small farm on the Saanich peninsula, where he grew tree fruits, and raised sheep and pigs. This interest was reflected in his academic work, when he published a translation of the Roman agricultural writer Palladius. John also published Wildflowers of the Coast, a series of poems each describing a particular species of wildflower.

John’s parents were very supportive of his pursuit of higher education. Though they were talented, both had left school at age 14 for financial reasons. It was in their honor that John founded the Gordon and Hilda Fitch Scholarship which is awarded to outstanding graduate students in Greek and Roman Studies. Similarly, it was his appreciation of the financial support he had received as a young man that motivated him to fund the John Fitch Bursary through a gift of his pension plan. It will be awarded to exceptional undergraduate students in the same department.

John’s generosity, both in the present and the future, will ensure that generations of UVic Greek and Roman Studies scholars will be able to continue his work for years to come.

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