Obituary of T. Leslie Shear, Jr.
T. Leslie Shear, Jr., a lifelong resident of Princeton, NJ, died after a brief illness on September 28, 2022 at the Princeton Hospital. Leslie was pre-deceased by his wife Ione Mylonas Shear, and survived by his daughters, Julia L. and Alexandra Shear, and grandchild Briar Shear.
Leslie was born on May 1, 1938 to Josephine and T. Leslie Shear, in Athens, Greece where his father was directing the excavations at the Athenian Agora.. That auspicious beginning in archaeology set him on the path which he followed for the rest of his life. After growing up in Princeton, and attending the Lawrenceville School between 1952 and 1955, his studies took him to Princeton University where he majored in Classics and received an A.B summa cum laude in 1959. After participating in the Regular Program of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, where he held the John Williams White Fellowship, he returned to Princeton University in 1960 to start his graduate work in classical archaeology, studies which culiminated in his Ph.D. in 1966. His first teaching prosition took him to Bryn Mawr College (1963 to 1967),and then, in 1967, Leslie returned to Princeton and taught in the Department of Art and Archaeology until his retirement in 2009. At Princeton, he ran the Program in Classical Archaeology for many years and so trained large numbers of students, many of whom followed him into Greek archaeology.
Even before Leslie received his Ph.D., he had gained extensive excavating experience at the Greek sites of Mycenae, Eleusis, Perati, and Corinth and at Morgantina in Sicily. At both Mycenae (in 1953 and 1954) and the Athenian Agora (in 1955), he assissted with the excavation photography, steps which led to his development as an excellent archaeological photographer. In 1968, Leslie became director of the excavations at the Athenian Agora, a position which he continued to hold until 1994. Under his direction, the excavated area expanded significantly to the south, east, and especially to the north of the metro line. The work in the northern sections was particularly significant because it led to the discovery of the Royal Stoa, where the trial of Socrates took place, and the Painted Stoa, an important site for the commemoration of war and later connected with the philosopher Zeno who invented Stoic philosophy. In preparation for the 1980 campaign, Leslie took the momentous decision to institute the Agora Volunteer Program: now for the first time in Greece, the actual work of excavation would be done by student volunteers, rather than by local Greek workmen, as was traditional in Greece. Instituted in the face of significant opposition, the program was an instant success which changed the face of archaeology in Greece. It provided opportunities for undergraduates to excavate and it paved the way for the fieldschools which are now common.
Leslie’s scholar contributions include two important books, Kallias of Sphettos and the Revolt of Athens in 286 B.C. (1978) and Trophies of Victory: Public Building in Periklean Athens (2016), as well as many articles. He was also a dedicated teacher who patiently elucidated for his students the intricacies of ancient Athenian architecture, archaeology, and culture; for many of his students, he served as a model for their own teaching. His connection to archaeology was not only professional, but also personal. He met his wife Ione, herself a daughter of the notable archaeologist George Mylonas, in 1956 when they both excavated for Ione’s father at Eleusis, and his oldest daughter, Julia, continues in the field.
Beyond his academic achievements, he was known for his warmth and kindness that he shared with everyone from his colleagues and students to people whom he encountered on the street. He served as trustee of the William Alexander Proctor Foundation (1982-1989) and of the Princeton Junior School (1983-2015; president 1999-2006). He was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, and he will be greatly missed.
Funeral services will be held at Trinity Church, 33 Mercer St, Princeton on Monday October 10, 2022 at 10:30 a.m.
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