Eugene Nicholas Borza, professor emeritus of ancient history at Penn State, devoted father, and loving husband, died Sunday, September 5, 2021 of multiple medical conditions.
Gene was born March 3, 1935, in Cleveland, Ohio, only child of John Borza and Rhea Silvia (Haizea) Borza. His parents were Romanian immigrants whose lives demonstrated the success of the American dream. Silvia was a homemaker and John was a senior school district administrator and team photographer for the Cleveland Browns football team.
After graduation from Baldwin Wallace College in 1957, where he was class president all four years, Gene taught history at his alma mater, Lakewood High School. He married a fellow teacher, Anne Bowden, in 1958 and in 1960 entered the graduate program in history and classics at the University of Chicago, where he was mentored by Gertrude Smith and Stewart Irwin Oost. His areas of interest included the rise of the Macedonian dynasty, Philip II and Alexander the Great.
Hired as an assistant professor at Penn State in 1964, Gene began a long career of scholarship and exemplary teaching. He was a national lecturer for the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) for 40 years. He was appointed as visiting professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder; The American School of Classical Studies at Athens; the University of Washington; Trinity University; and Carlton College. He especially enjoyed serving as historical advisor to the National Gallery of Art’s groundbreaking exhibition, The Search for Alexander, in 1981.
He published more than 50 peer-reviewed academic articles; his books include In the Shadow of Olympus and Before Alexander: Constructing Early Macedonia. He helped to launch the Association of Ancient Historians (AAH) and served two terms as its president. He was honored with a festschrift (a volume in his honor) by AAH, Macedonian Legacies: Studies in Ancient Macedonian History and Culture. He retired from Penn State in 1995.
Gene married Kathleen Pavelko in 1975. Over the course of their 46-year marriage, they lived in London (1978-79) and Athens (1984-86) and traveled widely in Europe, Egypt, Australia and New Zealand and China. An eventful stint in Fargo, ND preceded a return to Pennsylvania in 1999.
Gene was a trumpeter, big band leader and lifelong lover of jazz. His other passions included stamps, model trains and wine. He wrote a wine column for the Centre Daily Times for a happy few years.
Gene’s daughter Karen Borza Arabas followed his path into academe, where she serves as Professor of Environmental Science at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. Gene’s son Michael John Borza, who shared his Dad’s love of travel, now guides other travelers as concierge at Travel & Cruise Desk in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
Gene is survived by his wife, daughter and son and granddaughter Julia Arabas.
To make a memorial contribution to the Eugene N. Borza Award in Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies at Penn State (which supports a student studying abroad in Greece), use this form and indicate the Award as your choice: Online PSU gift form
Burial will be private, with a memorial service to be announced later.