William Robert Nethercut
1936 - 2020
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NETHERCUT, William Robert Age 84, passed away on August 14, 2020. He was born to the late Robert and Constance Nethercut in Rockford, Illinois on January 11, 1936. At the time of his death, William was Professor of Classics at the University of Texas at Austin, a position he held since 1975. Before coming to UT, he taught at Columbia University as Instructor, then Assistant Professor of Classics from 1961-1967 and at the University of Georgia as Associate Professor of Classics from 1967-1972, then Professor of Classics from 1972-1975. William earned his AB magna cum laude in Greek from Harvard in 1958 and his PhD from Columbia in 1963, writing a dissertation on the Roman poet Propertius. He served the field of Classics in many capacities, including as president of the Vergilian Society, editor of the journal Helios, and as a member of countless committees across the many professional organizations in the field. Of his contributions, he was proudest of the hundreds of Latin teachers he helped mentor currently working in high schools and middle schools across the country. Upon graduating from Harvard, William embarked on a life founded on his twin passions: music and academics. A voice student at the New England Conservatory of Music, he debuted as Figaro in Rossini's Barber of Seville, going on to perform such varied roles as Mozart's Count Almaviva, Don Giovanni, and Papageno, Bizet's Escamillo, Verdi's Germont, Leoncavallo's Silvio, and Puccini's Marcello; his singing career culminated in a solo recital at Carnegie Hall in 1966. As he was actively pursuing his singing career in Manhattan, he returned to graduate school at Columbia University. From the mid-1960s through the mid-1980s, he published extensively on Greco-Roman literature, focusing especially on the Latin poets Vergil and Propertius. Many of his articles, especially from the 1960s, contributed to the formation of the so-called Harvard School of Vergilian scholarship. One of his major contributions to Latin studies was in reinvigorating scholarly interest in the poetry of Propertius. Always alive to the nuanced artistry of this most obscure of Roman poets, his work laid foundations in Propertian studies that are still operative; his articles continue to populate the bibliographies of the most important work on Roman elegy being produced today, almost sixty years later. During the 1980s, he refocused his interests on ancient Egyptian language and culture, in the remainder of his career mentoring over twenty students who would go on to become professional Egyptologists. William twice was recognized with the President's Associates Teaching Excellence Award (1990, 1998) the highest award for teaching at the University of Texas; these were only two of many other official recognitions for his teaching. He was a vibrant member of First Baptist Church of Austin, where he was Chair of the Board of Deacons in 2000. William brought his inextinguishable optimism to all areas of his life. He gave freely of himself to all he met and remained committed to teaching, continuing to work up until the end. He found beauty wherever he sought it out. This organic fusion of qualities made even the shortest of encounters with him memorable, and he left an unforgettable impression on the tens of thousands of students who passed through his classrooms over his 59-year career. His was a life unusually full and impossible to capture in its breadth. A conversation with him could easily include a prolonged discourse on the etymology of your given name, would definitely involve him procuring your birth data so he could cast your astrological chart, and regularly would be peppered with surprising mentions of experiences he accumulated on his journeyfrom his work for the CIA doing horoscopes, to his impressive lepidoptery collection or his assortment of quasi-famous ancestors' glass eyes, William's interests fascinated both him and his audience. The greatest impact of his presence was his radiant joy, which was manifest in his vocation, his love of music and his devotion to his family. Indeed, the boundless love he had for his children and grandchildren remains his most profound legacy; the fragments of its embers will burn for decades and, hopefully, centuries to come, a permanent, sustaining benediction for the world made more beautiful, more joyful because of his life. William was preceded in death in 2008 by his grandson Jonathan Robert Wertz and in 2013 by his wife of 35 years, Jane Swann Nethercut. He is survived by four children: Mr. William Andrew Nethercut, Rev. Amanda Wertz (and her husband Mr. Christopher Wertz), Mr. Robert Nethercut (and his wife Mrs. Desirie Nethercut), and Dr. Jason Nethercut (and his wife Dr. Sarah Scullin); and by seven grandchildren: Kane and Rylee Wertz, Robert and Roger Nethercut, and Isaac, Frederick, and Nicholas Nethercut. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be made in William's name to the William and Jane Nethercut Excellence Endowment in the Classics Department at UT Austin. Donations may be sent to: College of Liberal Arts, Attn: Blake Turner, 116 Inner Campus Dr., G6300, Austin, TX 78712 (online giving: http://links.utexas.edu/blmahdg). Owing to the COVID pandemic, there will not be a memorial service at this time.

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Published in Austin American-Statesman on Aug. 16, 2020.
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12 entries
August 24, 2020
I was a colleague of Bill for nearly 20 years. It took me some time to appreciate all that he did and what a wonderful human being he was. He greeted everyone with a big smile and, if you were lucky, a hug. I will always remember the kindness he showed me when I was returning to work after a period of extended illness. He spent a good 30 minutes talking to me about the challenges of my illness and his admiration for my grit in coming back to work when I was still very much not 100%. I think most of us saw the deeply kind and humble side of Bill. I had the privilege of seeing him deeply upset on my behalf over an incident in which he felt that I had been treated unjustly. I was shocked to see his eyes flashing with anger on my behalf. Bill knew how to live life and bring joy to others. His students adored him and he will be deeply missed by those he taught; and his reputation and one of the greats will live on. It was not a shock at all that Bill insisted on teaching until he was completely incapacitated by his illness. He loved his students and they loved him. He will be deeply missed by many and his death leaves a gaping hole in the UT Classics Department.
Jennifer Ebbeler
Coworker
August 20, 2020
I was a student in Dr. Nethercut's seminar on Lucretius' De Rerum Natura in spring 2018. His magnanimity, his great-spiritedness, animated the room and the text. As part of that class, he and I read Catullus' Epyllion one-on-one in his office. His joyful generosity with his time and inability to get frustrated with my simple mistakes are models for me to pattern myself after. His enthusiasm for Egypt was infectious, and even though my area is the archaeology of ancient Italy, he stirred sparks of latent interest in me that are now burning brighter as I prepare to teach a course involving Egypt. Dr. Nethercut majorly helped form me as a scholar, and did so in ways that I must live to find out further. I love him, and am sorry to see him go. I will miss his booming "GOOD to see you!" in the halls of Waggener, said with smiling eyes as he ambled along.

Godspeed Dr. Nethercut. I pray we meet again in God's embracing house.
Kevin Lee
Student
August 20, 2020
May the love of friends and family carry you through your grief.
August 19, 2020
I am so sorry for your loss. I met Prof. Nethercut when I began working in the Classics Department at UT as an administrator seven years ago. He was always joyful, thoughtful, and kind. I never heard him express a negative thought about anyone or anything. He never gave up his passion for teaching and insisted on doing so until he was completely incapacitated by his illness. It is a great blessing to have known such an indefatigable, remarkable, grace-filled person, who lived life to its fullest in the best sense.
Vanessa Noya
Coworker
August 19, 2020
As a colleague, friend, and even OUTIS softball teammate of Bill’s these last thirty-four years, I can only say amen to every word about his inner soul and outward transmission of it to others as written up in the Statesman obituary.

He did up my horoscope early on and in retrospect I should have paid more attention to it. His thoughtful nature was there until the last.

In his fifties, his softball swing was compact and sweet and smooth as maple syrup. He accepted as high praise my calling him our Smokey Burgess.

Voice, mind, caring heart, and a Musesical soul

Roll on, Bill, let it roll
Tom Palaima
Friend
August 18, 2020
Any time spent with Bill was fun, enlightening, and enriching. Sunday School, Spanish classes, and my oh my, the solos! We have missed him greatly recently. What an amazing family you have and are a treasure to thousands of students. Go gently dear one.
Anita Gordon
Friend
August 18, 2020
Oh my goodness I LOVE Bill! In 2004 when I was preparing to record my album Mother Heart; Songs of the Sacred Feminine by Hildegard of Bingen, he generously met with me several times to help me with the Latin. And every meeting was a delightful and rich experience of heart, mind, and soul. He helped me beyond measure on every level, and I have held him dearly in my heart ever since. I often said he reminded me of Clarence in Its A Wonderful Life! I am sure I am one of many people whose lives were changed in great ways by Bill and yet he made me feel like I was the most important person when I was with him. What a wonderful wonderful man!!
Susan Lincoln
Friend
August 16, 2020
A rich life, well-lived. We shall miss you, Bill. ❤
Jo Ann Merica
Friend
August 16, 2020
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Kristen Foster
August 16, 2020
Bill was always a favorite of our family. What wonderful memories we have on the High Road as all the kids were growing up. Bill was so kind to all of us. A truly good man has left us. Prayers and love to all of you.
Cindy and Pat Shannon, joseph, Kate and Andrew
Cindy Shannon
Friend
August 16, 2020
We are so very sorry for your loss. Bill is an amazing soul and we know you miss him already. We are sending prayers your way.
Tara and Cole Shiflet
Friend
August 16, 2020
Dearest family of our beloved Bill Nethercut. We had a relatively short history with Bill and Jane through church at FBC Austin but came to love them and lived to hear his stories and wisdom. I knew he was a learned man but never quite realized the extent of his learning and sharing. We have missed him these last months of illness but glad his suffering is over on this earth. God bless his soul and may he rest in peace. God bless you, his living family for your live and support. God be with you.
George and Ginger Craddock
Friend
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