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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Classics professor, ancient social structure analyst dies at 62

Diane Cline taught at GW for more than 14 years after beginning at the University as a visiting associate professor in 2001.
Courtesy of Eric Cline
Diane Cline, a two-time Fulbright Scholar and winner of the Morton A. Bender Award for Excellence in Teaching, is survived by her husband, Eric Cline, and her children, Hannah and Josh Cline.

Diane Cline, an associate professor emerita of history and classical and ancient near Eastern studies, died last month after battling cancer for more than a year. She was 62. 

Cline taught at GW for more than 14 years after beginning at the University as a visiting associate professor in 2001 in the Classical & Ancient Near Eastern Studies department, which studies classical and ancient civilizations in the Mesopotamian region. Her students remember her as a professor whose energetic and passionate teaching inspired them to study classics, and her colleagues and friends remember her as a warm presence and impressive academic who they will greatly miss.

Cline won the Columbian Prize for Teaching and Mentoring Advanced Undergraduate Students in 2017 and the Morton A. Bender Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2018. Cline was also twice named a Fulbright Scholar, a prestigious title given to academics seeking out international or cross-cultural research.

In her last autobiographical lecture in April, “A Life in Classics,” Cline said she first became interested in classics when she visited the Parthenon in Greece as a teenager. Cline received her bachelor’s degree in classics from Stanford University and her masters and doctorate degrees from Princeton University. 

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, Cline said in her lecture she wanted to do something “for today” to help her country and left GW to join the National Security Agency, where she did intelligence work for four years. She returned to GW in 2006, where she was known by many students as “Lady Cline.” 

Eric Cline, Cline’s husband and a professor of classical and ancient near Eastern history and anthropology at GW, said he first met his wife while they were both studying at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. He said Diane Cline was usually the smartest person in the room but “never showed it.”

Cline said one of his fondest memories of his wife was the summer they spent together in Crete while she was teaching Greek at the University of Crete with her second Fulbright degree. He said they would try different restaurants while they were traveling in Crete and make jokes about one particular restaurant that the other archaeologist did not like. 

“Every time we would go to the restaurant and we’d have a great meal. And then while walking home, one of us would say, ‘But you know, it’s not like it was 10 years ago.’ So that became kind of our catchphrase,” Cline said.

Eric Cline added that their former students told him that he introduced them to archaeology but Diane Cline “brought it to life” by teaching the culture of ancient civilizations and taking students to Greece during spring break to supplement the learning they did in the classroom. He said he fondly recalls the look on students’ faces when he took over one of Diane Cline’s Greek history classes last year and students realized she would not be teaching the course. 

“I walked in the first day and everybody’s faces dropped. And I’m like, ‘I know, I know. I’m the wrong Cline. You wanted Lady Cline, I’m afraid you got me,’” Cline said. “That was one of my favorite moments, just watching their faces drop when I walked in.”

Cline said his wife was an “innovative” researcher who was “frequently” 10 years ahead of her field. Diane Cline used her intelligence experience at the NSA of analyzing social networks to begin research in the field of ancient social network analysis, which involved investigating the social relationships between ancient figures.

Eric Cline said Diane Cline was also an accomplished cellist and that their house was always “filled” with the sounds of her playing the instrument.

Christopher Rollston, the department chair of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, said Cline was a “wonderful” scholar and “utterly devoted” to her students. 

Professor Diane Harris Cline had the ability to light up a classroom and to bring the lives of ancient Greeks and Romans to life,” Rollston said in an email. “Her students loved her, and she loved her students. She will be so very sorely missed.”

Elise Friedland, an associate professor of classical and ancient near Eastern studies and art history, said Cline was an incredible colleague and friend as well as a “fabulous” coordinator for GW’s Classical & Ancient Near Eastern Studies program. Friedland said Cline created a warm, vibrant and “connected” community for students.

“She was an electrifying presence in the classroom and one of the most compassionate and dedicated professors I have had the privilege to know,” Friedland said in an email. 

Alexandra Ratzlaff, Cline’s former student and an assistant professor of classical and early Mediterranean studies at Brandeis University, said Cline was a “dynamic” professor and researcher and a supportive mentor. 

“Diane was the first professor for me who really showed the importance of the humanities and looking at the world in a humanistic way,” Ratzlaff said. “Later over the years, I started actually using her research and her work in my own classes, and her work in the digital humanities was very inspiring to me.”

John Ziolkowski, a GW professor emeritus of classics in residence, said Cline was a generous, “spirited” and helpful colleague and friend. Ziolkowski said one of his fondest memories of Cline is when she played the cello at his retirement party in 2007.

Sydni Haggerty, Cline’s former student, said Cline always greeted her with a “bright” smile and addressed her in Greek. She said Cline taught her students how “magical and enriching” studying ancient history can be.

I am so grateful to have met her and had her in my life even if only briefly, as I’m sure many of her students feel. To have a mentor in your life so wonderful and compassionate — that is worth more than I can express,” Haggerty said in an email. 

Josh Sanchez, a former student who first met Cline in the fall of 2020 during a department “happy hour,” said in 2020 she once stayed on a Zoom call with him for an extra 30 minutes to tell him the story of a classical period leader in Greece. He added that Cline also attended his graduation last spring to watch the last group of classicists she taught graduate.

“She had to leave shortly after but honestly being able to see her in the robes, her seeing us in our regalia,” Sanchez said. “It was, I can’t even describe the feeling. It was just so, so wonderful, so beautiful.”

Runjni Shastri, Cline’s former student and a Class of 2023 graduate, said Cline has a “huge” influence on her life and is “incredibly grateful” for the guidance Cline provided her throughout college.

I was in one of Professor Cline’s last classes that she taught at GW, Greek and Roman Drama. Through that class I became a classics major, and it is entirely because of how Professor Cline communicated her passion for the Ancients,” Shastri said in an email. 

Melissa Cradic, Cline’s former student, said she reconnected with Diane and Eric Cline when they were all doing research at the Getty Institute in Los Angeles in 2021. Cradic said Diane Cline had an “ease” in front of a class and that her graphic recording presentation style — where she would create visuals that would tie together narrative arcs — was a “master class” in captivating an audience. 

“Diane was an absolute mensch, truly a special person who had a wonderfully warm, gracious and witty demeanor,” Cradic said in an email. “She was always ready with a quip, was an attentive listener and was generous with sharing her time and expertise.”

Cline’s funeral and interment were held July 12 at Temple Mt. Sinai Cemetery in El Paso, Texas. She is survived by her husband, Eric Cline, and her children, Hannah and Josh Cline.

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