Seymour Reader

Ancient thinking gets a modern revival as one of our flagship endowed fellowships returns.

The Seymour Reader is one of the most visionary of Ormond’s benefactions: a major endowment providing for a resident fellow to educate students in ancient history and philosophy.

The new Reader is Brennan McDavid who is completing her PhD in Princeton University’s philosophy department. She is a member of the Princeton Classical Philosophy program and a graduate fellow at the University Center for Human Values. Her work focuses on Aristotle’s epistemology, especially his theory of ethical knowledge and the comparisons that can be drawn between the way he conceives of the structure of ethical knowledge and the structure of scientific knowledge. Before Princeton, she earned a BA in Philosophy and Political Science at Vanderbilt University and a MA in Classical Philology at the University of Arizona.

Additional information can be found at her website: www.brennanmcdavid.com

The last Reader, Professor Dan Russell, commenced in 2012 and spent six months a year at Ormond, where he was involved with students at all levels in formal and informal discussions of philosophy and ethics. He led a weekly seminar on advanced ethics as well as less formal groups of students with an interest in different aspects of philosophy.

The Readership has seen the appointment of a number of exemplary candidates, with the most recent permanent appointment being Robin Jackson. The readership was in abeyance for a period while the terms were altered to enable appointments to be made of either gender and to remove the requirement of residency within the College.


Percy Seymour & The Readership

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The Seymour Readership was the vision of Percy Seymour, an exemplary classics scholar, a former student and Vice-Master of Ormond. Percy was born in Avoca in 1887. He showed great early academic promise, entering Ormond in 1904 with a major scholarship. After taking the first place on the finals list for classics and a first-class honours degree from The University of Melbourne, he was awarded a scholarship to study at Jesus College at the University of Oxford from where he obtained a first-class degree in Literae Humaniores.

At the age of just 34, Jesus College elected him a Fellow and tutor in classics, a position he would hold for more than two decades. In 1949, he returned to Ormond to take up the post of Vice-Master. The minutes of the College Council record that he was “seized with the importance of the collegiate system for Australia”. He turned around the College’s finances and helped establish an endowment to secure Ormond’s future. He was also keenly interested in establishing a collegiate tutorial system at Ormond along Oxford lines. But it was more than a tutorial system that Seymour sought – he wanted to create a truly collegial education in which both students and staff were part of one community; where they learnt and lived together. And he wasn’t leaving the matter to others or to chance. In 1952, just two years before his death, he had a will drafted to provide just the sort of tutor he had in mind. The tutor was to “give instruction in Ancient History and Philosophy to such undergraduates as may require [it]”, to provide any lectures within “the wall of the College” and during term time to live within Main Building at least four nights a week. To this enterprise of creating an Oxford don in Ormond robes he would devote almost his entire estate. As well as Percy’s gift, his sister-in-law, Beatrice, later left her estate to build up the corpus of the Readership.