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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


SBU Latin professor passes away at 91

Professor Aaron William Godfrey passed away on April 7, 2020. He was 91. PHOTO CREDIT: STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY

Professor Aaron William Godfrey, who taught Latin under the Department of European Languages at Stony Brook University, passed away on April 7 at the age of 91, according to Newsday.

The cause of Godfrey’s death has been linked to pneumonia. He had tested negative for COVID-19, yet some doctors said they believe the virus was an underlying cause of death.

Godfrey’s teaching career began in 1960 after he left a banking career with Citibank and W.R. Grace. His first stint began at Newton College of the Sacred Heart in Massachusetts. There he taught several European languages, including Spanish, French and Latin, in addition to money and banking, and Latin American history and politics.

He moved to Stony Brook University in 1965, where he taught Latin. For decades, Godfrey kept the study of Latin language alive on campus both through his classes, and yearly youth competitions in rhetoric, translation and knowledge of ancient history at the university. He even hosted meetings of the Suffolk Classical Society at his home.

Outside of the classroom, Godfrey lived an extraordinary life. He was born on Jan. 10, 1929 in Manhattan, New York. His father, Aaron William Godfrey, was a real estate developer, and his mother Claire Molanphyi was a New York City school teacher. Godfrey attended Regis High School in Manhattan as well as St. John’s Preparatory School in Brooklyn. Godfrey attended Fordham University following high school. He received his bachelor’s degree in history and went on to complete his master’s in the subject at Hunter College.

After earning his degrees, Godfrey, aged 25, served in the Army in 1954. He finished his stint in the military in 1956. He was stationed in Germany and often told stories about his times on the military base in his classes.

Throughout his life, Godfrey built a tremendous family around him. In his obituary from Newsday, he had 10 children from two marriages.

Godfrey lived a long life dedicated to educating thousands of students who attended the universities he taught at. His tenure as a professor can serve as a model for future educators.

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  • G

    George ThomasNov 16, 2021 at 7:02 pm

    I was saddened to hear his passing last year. I enrolled in several Latin classes under his instruction when I attended SBU from 1990-1994. My interest in Latin was due to his passion and excellence in teaching. While I never pursued a degree in Classical Studies, I desired to take his courses as electives. His courses were fast-paced. I learned so much about the Greeks and Romans. I often remember he picked on me. I don’t know if it was taken as a compliment or not (smile). He was very approachable, warm, and willing to listen. To this day, decades later, I still resonate on what I learned from him and how frequent I see Latin used in common words every day. I was fortunate to have you as an instructor. Your light continues to shine bright to numerous students, Prof. Godfrey.

  • J

    John MongiardoMar 16, 2021 at 9:59 pm

    2 things he taught me as I begged him to give me a B+ in intermediate Latin – so I could go on to the internship I secured at a major record label and start my career in media.

    1) Kiss ass, then kick ass.
    2) What have you done for me lately.


    He will be greatly missed.

    John Mongiardo

  • F

    Fred McCormick class of 1973May 5, 2020 at 2:33 pm

    I took several of Mr. Godfrey’s advanced Latin and classics in translation classes in the early 1970’s. Later, I found that my cousin’s son also studied under him. I maintained contact with him for many years and always enjoyed all too infrequent visits to his Port Jefferson home where he continued to be the gracious host. One entered his home directly into his cozy study by passing through an arch of yew trees. His book case, next to his wide desk contained many interesting books. I remember especially the early Medieval Latin authors including a complete John Cassian. It doesn’t get any better than that. Mr. Godfrey was a true scholar and Catholic gentleman, was a great conversationalist and will always hold a special place in my heart. “Haec et olim meminisse juvabit”–“and in the future it will be pleasant to remember these things.”

  • N

    nichole gladkyApr 23, 2020 at 9:22 am

    victus venit videns (He came, he saw, he conquered)
    He was quite an amazing teacher and mentor if you’ve ever had the pleasure of taking Latin as a student at Stony Brook University. He loved the students regardless of the “aggressive apathy” he’d notice from us. He fed us, he taught us about life skills and experiences and empathy. He was an enthusiastic teacher and he was very funny – a lover of puns. Upper-division Latin courses were my most favorite memories of college life. I will miss him very much.