Ben Frenken hadn’t planned to study Classics at all; his original notion was to complete the Foundation Year Programme at King’s and to study English at a university on the West Coast. The appeal of the ancient literature read in the Programme, and conversations with faculty members there, brought him to the Department with the special hope of reading Homer in Greek. His wish to read texts in the original languages was satisfied relatively quickly. He had already started one classical language: “I had studied Spanish in high school, but I was between years in terms of the university courses, so I picked up Latin instead.” Greek quickly followed, which allowed him to dig properly into Homer and Thucydides. In the end Ben combined Classics with modern literature and poetry studies in the Contemporary Studies Programme at King’s in an Honours degree completed in 2005.
This wasn’t sufficient to quench Ben’s thirst for literary study and he enrolled in our M.A. programme. It is no surprise that his research was focused on Homeric epic; his thesis, supervised by Dr. Leona MacLeod, dealt with divine justice in the Odyssey and focused on the memorable Cyclops episode. Ben recalled having enjoyed a somewhat lighter course load during the MA than some of his fellow MA students had; “I had already done the languages, so I didn’t have to take those classes.”
“I knew that I didn’t want to do a PhD; I wanted to have a break from school and getting out into the world was attractive.” That’s precisely what he did, although he didn’t take a break from school; he wound up on the other side of the world and on the other side of the teacher’s desk. Ben travelled to South Korea to teach English, where he enjoyed a teaching schedule that sounds like a dream come true: he held classes in the afternoons and spent the mornings enjoying private martial arts lessons, hiking, and similar pursuits. He even visited the secretive North Korea very briefly. After returning to Canada, he continued teaching English via Skype through his own online teaching business, which occupied him part-time for a year and a half. He was also assisting Halifax Humanities 101 as a writing coordinator. By this time, however, he was already planning the next phase in his own education. Although he applied to various universities while writing the LSATs, he was chiefly interested in further study in Halifax and at Dalhousie.
Studying law Ben half-jokingly describes as “the postponement of a decision” on a profession. Studying Classics, he notes, was very good preparation for studying law: he was already accustomed to working hard, grappling with challenging reading, and dealing with questions arising from interpreting the written word. His familiarity with Latin meant that Latin legal terms yielded up their meanings easily, even if the legal world pronounces its Latin rather differently from the Roman style. Nor was he the only Classics graduate in the local legal community; he was pleased to see near its top the Honourable Justice Peter Bryson of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal (BA 1976, MA 1978) deeply steeped in the Classics who also found time to judge charity moots for Halifax Humanities.
“Postponements” of decisions and experimenting with new areas can sometimes lead to important decisions about the course of one’s life; Ben’s experiment with law worked out. His exploratory contacts with legal firms led to a summer job in Toronto, where he did research, wrote administrative notes, accompanied lawyers to court; through these experiences he discovered that he was interested not only in studying law but in practising it. Legal practice is now just around the corner for him. Ben will begin his full-time legal career by articling with Norton Rose Canada, one of the largest law firms in Canada with offices around the world – and exciting prospects for young lawyers who like to experience other languages and cultures. Bonam fortunam, Ben!
We are grateful to Christopher Grundke and to Ben Frenken for the interview on which this profile was based, and to DalNews for the photo.