Waldo E. Sweet, professor emeritus of Latin and the teaching of Latin, died here Sept. 15 of complications from Parkinson’s Disease. He was 80 years old.
Sweet was best known for his development of a new approach to teaching Latin based on the application of modern linguistic theories and modern language learning theories. His textbook, Latin: A Structural Approach, and his multi-media programmed learning course, “Artes Latinae,” are still being used by classics instructors at many universities and high schools.
“Wally Sweet reformed the teaching of Latin and changed the profession forever,” said Latin Prof. Glenn M. Knudsvig. “He was a brilliant man and a great innovator who devoted his creativity to making his subject accessible to students. Much of the Latin teaching profession is just now catching up to what he started in the early 1950s.”
Sweet received an A.B. degree in 1934 from Amherst College and an M.A. in Greek in 1935 from Columbia University. He also received an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Greek history in 1943 from Princeton University. He taught Latin at several private schools and academies on the East Coast before joining the U-M in 1953, where he taught until his retirement in 1982.
Sweet served as chair of the University Committee for Foreign Language Instruction and established the Foreign Language Courier, a publication designed to share ideas with language teachers throughout Michigan and to strengthen support for foreign language study. In collaboration with the U-M Bureau of School Services, he conducted regular site visits to foreign language programs in Michigan high schools.
Sweet wrote or edited 13 books and nearly 50 articles on Latin instruction and classical studies. His most recent books included A Course on Words, published in 1982 with Knudsvig, and Sport and Recreation in Ancient Greece, published in 1987.
Sweet was a member of the American Philological Association, the Linguistic Society of America, and the American Council on Teaching of Foreign Languages.
Sweet is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Osborne Sweet of Ann Arbor; two daughters, Deborah Page Sweet-Shomer of Port Townsend, Wash., and Holly Barlow Sweet of Wellesley, Mass.; one grandchild, Aliya Shomer; a sister, Frances Sweet Gordon of Long Meadow, Mass.; and one stepsister, Margaret Blake Ewing of Milwaukee, Wis.
At his request, Sweet’s body has been donated to the Medical School. A gathering in his memory will take place 5–7 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Homestead of the Leslie Science Center, 1831 Traver Road.