Rufus Fears was a renowned historian, scholar, educator, and author who taught at the University of Oklahoma for 22 years. He was an expert on ancient history, the history of liberty, and classical studies. He was also a popular lecturer and writer who often connected the lessons of the past to the challenges of the present.
Fears’ Early Life and Education
Fears was born on March 7, 1945, in New York City, to Rufus Sr. and Helen Fears. He had two older sisters, Patricia and Barbara. His father was a radio announcer and his mother was a homemaker. Fears developed a passion for history and classics from an early age, and was inspired by his teachers and mentors.
He earned his bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in history and classics from Emory University in 1967, and his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1971. He studied under some of the most distinguished scholars of his field, such as Bernard Bailyn, John Finley, and Arnaldo Momigliano. He also received several fellowships and awards, such as the Fulbright Scholarship, the Guggenheim Fellowship, and the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship.
Fears’ Academic Career and Achievements
Fears began his academic career at Indiana University, where he taught from 1971 to 1985. He was selected four times by the students as Professor of the Year, and was also the founding director of the Institute for Advanced Study. He then moved to Boston University, where he served as the chair of the Department of Classical Studies from 1985 to 1990.
In 1990, Fears joined the University of Oklahoma as the David Ross Boyd Professor of Classics and the G.T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty. He also served as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 1996 to 2001. He was selected three times by the students as Professor of the Year, and received the Medal for Excellence in College and University Teaching from the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence in 2008.
Fears was a prolific and influential author and editor of many books and articles on various topics, such as the cult of Jupiter, Roman imperial ideology, Lord Acton, and the history of freedom. He also delivered more than a dozen lectures for The Great Courses, a series of educational audio and video courses. He was widely admired for his eloquence, erudition, and humor.
Fears also lectured across the country and around the world, and was a regular guest on radio and TV shows. He was a distinguished fellow of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a conservative think tank, and a member of several academic and professional organizations, such as the American Historical Association, the American Philological Association, and the Society for Classical Studies.
Fears’ Personal Life and Legacy
Fears was married to Jan Fears, a former journalist and public relations executive, since 1971. They had two sons, Benjamin and Jonathan, and four grandchildren. Fears was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, who enjoyed spending time with his family and friends. He was also a man of faith, who attended the First Presbyterian Church of Norman.
Fears was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2006, which gradually affected his mobility and speech. He continued to teach and write until his death in 2012, which was mourned by his colleagues, students, and admirers. He was buried at the IOOF Cemetery in Norman, Oklahoma.
Fears’ legacy as a historian and a teacher is still celebrated and appreciated by many people who learned from him and were inspired by him. He was posthumously awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2013, and was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame in 2014. He is remembered as a man who loved history and liberty, and who shared his knowledge and wisdom with others.