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Nicole Hess

The Tortoise and the Hare, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, The Fox and the Grape: Some of Aesop’s Fables are more recognizable than others, but the stories that have been used to instruct children for generations are all invaluable to Nicole Hess ’12, who is translating the fables from the original Greek with the help of Professor Douglas Penney for his new book.

The book, which they hope to have completed by Nicole’s graduation in May 2012, is a collection of fables in Greek with a complete dictionary of the vocabulary and grammar presented alongside the text, for Greek students to “gain vocabulary and grammar by continual reading of the text.”

Nicole explains, “One of the things I have really valued about this project is that it has solidified my basics, which is why I believe this book is so worthwhile. It is a helpful stepping stone for students coming out of intermediate Greek because they don't have a lot of texts that they can read easily and with confidence. That is what the book is trying to do—provide them with the extra help they need to gain that confidence and to read more, so that they can continue developing their Greek skills.”

Nicole’s interest in Greek is what originally brought her to Wheaton.  At 15 she learned about Wycliffe Bible translation. “I think there is something so powerful in bringing the word of God to a new culture,” she says.  When she found out that Wheaton has an Ancient Languages department, she knew she wanted to attend. “Bible translation was God’s excuse to get me to Wheaton so that I would have the tools I need for later.”

Nicole’s experience in the Ancient Languages department has led her to want to be a professor of Ancient languages herself. “One of the things I love about the Ancient Languages department is the broad scope we can get of the ancient world. And, I really love working with all of the professors; they are why I want to be one when I grow up.”

Surprisingly, Greek literature was not an immediate draw for Nicole. “I was exposed to Greek mythology in high school and thought it was a waste of time. I distinctly remember thinking the stories were meaningless. That’s what drives me to want to be a Greek professor—realizing what I almost missed out on, and wanting to make sure that I can help other students not miss that. It’s valuable to offer these classes because there is so much you can miss if you don’t understand how much the Greeks have to offer us, and what the Romans had to say that still applies to our life today.”

Nicole expresses much gratitude for the opportunity to learn from Professor Douglas Penney while working on the project.  “He always says ‘no matter what, it has to be fun.’ His attitude toward trying to make Greek fun for people and focus on what people should know beyond the text has been a good balance, and has taught me about being a professor.”

Together they have translated 300 of the 426 fables, and Nicole has enjoyed every minute of it. “My favorite stories are always those with an unexpected twist at the end, and then the moral changes,” she says with enthusiasm. In the midst of translating the final 126 fables, Nicole is also applying to graduate programs around the nation for a PhD in classical languages, and hopes to focus on gender and religious studies.