New Endowment Memorializes Beloved Professor’s Impact

History and Classics’ Professor Diane Harris Cline was remembered as a devoted educator. A gift honoring her legacy will aid students.
June 12, 2024
Diane Harris Cline

The Diane Harris Cline Memorial Prize for Classics and History will honor the late history and classic professor’s legacy.

When Professors Eric Cline and Diane Harris Cline joined the GW faculty in 2000, the pair of historians had an important decision to make. Or, rather, Eric Cline had a decision to make.

“She told me that she had already claimed the '[email protected]' email address so I had to pick something else,” he recalled. Ironically, in the years to come, students and colleagues started to refer to his wife by an affectionate new title: Lady Cline.

Diane Harris Cline passed away in 2023 following a battle with cancer. The much-beloved Lady Cline was an associate professor in the Department of History and an instructor in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (CNELC). Over a span of 14 years, she led students on a trip to Greece, coordinated the Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies Program and gained a reputation for electrifying lectures. “People always said that I teach the students the facts and she breathes life into them,” said her husband, a CNELC professor and director of the GW Capitol Archaeological Institute.

And now her legacy will continue enhancing students’ education. Through a generous gift to the university, Eric Cline established the Diane Harris Cline Memorial Prize for Classics and History, which will be given to an exemplary student in CNELC or history who completes a research project related to antiquity and/or digital humanities. For GW Giving Day 2024, the award was among the most popular CCAS funds donors supported, a testament to Diane Harris Cline’s enduring popularity.

Proficient in eight languages, Diane Harris Cline was an accomplished scholar and author who received prestigious awards throughout her career, including three GW teaching prizes, two Fulbrights and the National Archives Citizen Archivist Award. “Some professors are well-known for their scholarship, and some are well known for their teaching. But Diane Harris Cline was known for both,” said Christopher Rollston, CNELC department chair.

She was an established historian and archaeologist when she elected to take a five-year detour into national security work, inspired to enter public service following the 9/11 terror attacks. Upon returning to GW in 2008, she brought a new lens to academia and became a trailblazer in social network analysis. She was among the first scholars to publish and teach social network analysis as a way to illustrate the social lives of key historical figures, such as Socrates and Alexander the Great.

Colleagues remembered her, above all else, as an enthusiastic educator. Professor of History Denver Brunsman described her as “the pedagogical conscience” of GW’s history faculty. According to CNELC Professor Elise Friedland, “Diane poured her creativity, intensity and energy into her students, sought to ignite in them her passion for the study of the ancient world and created countless research opportunities for them, especially in digital humanities.”

Memorial Recognizes Humanities Research

The Clines often discussed their shared excitement over students embracing historical research opportunities, particularly those involving digital techniques. Eric Cline recalls his wife telling him about one particularly groundbreaking thesis which used social network analysis to map community ties between the accused and accusers of the Salem witch trials.

These conversations were fresh in Eric Cline’s mind when he considered how best to honor her legacy at GW. Through the Diane Harris Cline Memorial Prize for Classics and History, students will continue to benefit from her education mission.

Eric Cline described his wife as someone who “gave unstintingly to others.” He noted how fitting it was that the connective threads of her own social network will multiply in the years to come as this award touches the lives of future generations of GW students.

Give to the Cline Memorial Fund