John N. Felten (1918-2004)
Stephen Simon, May 2005
Rev. John N. Felten, S.J., professor of ancient and classical history at Xavier University in Cincinnati, passed away on October 10, 2004. In 1940, he completed an AB degree in Greek and Latin at Loyola University Chicago. He entered the Jesuit Order the same year, and while studying to become a priest, received an MA in Greek and Latin from Saint Louis University. He wrote his master's thesis on Roman stoicism. Father Felten was ordained on June 18, 1952, at West Baden College in Indiana. Although he had wanted to become a missionary to India, the Jesuit Order determined in 1954 that he should go to Oxford to continue his studies in Greek and Latin history. In 1957, he received a second BA and MA from the University of Oxford. His major authors of study were Herodotus, Thucydides, and Tacitus. In the same year, Father Felten was assigned to Xavier University, where he served for 30 years until his retirement in 1987. Again, the Jesuit Order was most correct in the choice of John Felten's career.
At Xavier, Father Felten became a professor of Greek and Roman history and taught courses on ancient Greece to 480 B.C., 5th-century Athens, and the early Roman Empire. He also directed the honors program from 1958 to 1967. During his tenure, he established Marion Hall as an honors residence hall and assembled very talented instructors for the program. In 1967, the university called upon him to become Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences while he continued to teach his courses in ancient history. In 1987, Father Felten became professor emeritus. After retirement, he volunteered to serve as the archivist for the university. It has been said that John Felten did a great deal for Xavier University and the study of classical and ancient history.
John Felten was not a researcher. His talent was in teaching; he is said to have been a very forceful teacher and university administrator. In fact, for this writer, Father Felten was the greatest teacher that I had in my career. In the summer of 1961, I took his course on the early Roman Empire, and it was that experience that motivated me to become a professor of ancient history.
— Stephen Simon
Appalachian State University
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