Retired Faculty

Professor MayJames M. May, Professor Emeritus of Classics
(taught at St. Olaf from 1977 to 2017)


B.S. Ed. (Latin & English), Kent State University, 1973
Ph.D. (Classics), University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 1977

Jim May is the author of many articles and chapters on Cicero, classical rhetoric, and Latin pedagogy, as well as a book entitled Trials of Character: The Eloquence of Ciceronian Ethos (University of North Carolina Press), an annotated translation (co-authored with Jakob Wisse) of Cicero’s On the Ideal Orator (Oxford University Press), two textbooks, 38 Latin Stories (Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers) and 46 Stories in Classical Greek (Hackett/Focus Publishing), both co-authored with Anne Groton, and A Cicero Reader: Selections from Five Essays and Four Speeches with Five Letters (Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers).  He also edited Brill’s Companion to Cicero: Rhetoric and Oratory. His most recent book is How to Win an Argument: An Ancient Guide to the Art of Persuasion (Princeton University Press).

May received the Award for Excellence in the Teaching of the Classics from the American Philological Association (APA) In 1986, and the Sears-Roebuck Foundation Teaching Excellence and Campus Leadership Award in 1991. He has served the APA on its Board of Directors and as its Vice President for Education and its Vice President for Professional Matters.  A former President of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South, he has held two NEH Fellowships and directed two NEH Summer Seminars for School Teachers.  He served as Provost and Dean of St. Olaf College from 2002 to 2011 and was Kenneth O. Bjork Distinguished Professor from 2014 to 2017.

In his spare time May competes in handball, restores antique trucks, cars, and tractors, builds harpsichords, plays baroque instruments, chants (Gregorian-style), and sings in a Renaissance chamber choir. Besides having visited Greece more than 30 times, his greatest claim to fame is having been one of 170 rowers who powered the trireme Olympias, a replica of an ancient Greek warship, around the Aegean Sea in 1990. He is married to Donna, a professional singer, choir director, and retired high-school music teacher; they have two sons, Joseph (married to Bethany) and Michael (married to Sheila), and a two-year-old grandson Augustus James May.