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Floyd Celapino: A Baylor Classic
Rachel Schulson

“Tell me something interesting,” Floyd Celapino routinely instructs students in his Baylor School Latin classes. Fortunately for those students, he finds almost all topics interesting — and he returns the favor, enthusiastically sharing historical anecdotes as if he had lived in ancient times. Celapino is retiring after 42 years of teaching, entertaining, and inspiring young adults.   

Intrigued by Latin in high school, Celapino earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in classical studies from Penn State University. He intended to pursue a career in academia and found his Baylor position in 1978 through an American Classical League job listing. At the time, he thought he would teach for just a couple of years and then continue his education.

“I looked up one day when I was pushing 40 and was still here. I said, ‘This must be what I’m doing with my life,’ and I’ve really enjoyed it,” said Celapino. “One of the great things about a place like Baylor is that there is the opportunity to know people over a long time—actually, a lifetime. You taught someone when you were young and hopeful—that person reappears later as a colleague or a parent—or you taught with someone for years and that person reappears as a grandparent.  There is a continuity to the place that is very satisfying.”
 

One of the great things about a place like Baylor is that there is the opportunity to know people over a long time—actually, a lifetime. You taught someone when you were young and hopeful—that person reappears later as a colleague or a parent—or you taught with someone for years and that person reappears as a grandparent.  There is a continuity to the place that is very satisfying.

Over the years, Celapino maintained his enthusiasm for teaching Latin. For a short time, he also taught Greek, and more recently, he offered a junior/senior mythology elective that opened with gods and then shifted to heroes, connecting them to Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, and Frodo Baggins.

In addition to teaching, Celapino worked with Baylor registrars on scheduling and on moving the school from paper to electronic formats for all its records and daily business. He gave his distinctive Celapino chuckle remembering some mishaps during the first days of online report cards and got a little wistful when he realized he was starting work on his final master schedule.

Celapino’s most enjoyable non-classroom experience through Baylor was the continuation of his own Latin studies. Alongside scholars from around the world, he attended two eight-week summer programs in Rome, receiving instruction by one of the Pope's five Latin secretaries, and visiting parts of the Vatican off-limits to the public for decades. One summer of Latin study was  funded by The Lyndhurst Foundation (one of two Lyndhurst grants he received during his Baylor career); the other by the Rockefeller Foundation.

I’ve always thought, if you could talk about multiple things, there’s a chance that somebody in that classroom could hear you.

“One of the things I liked about being a classicist, that drew me to it in college, is that you have to be good at languages—in those days you had to do Latin and Greek--but you can also do history, philosophy, art history, and archaeology. You can bring all these different parts to it,” said Celapino. “What I liked about it was that it gave you this whole huge sandbox to play in.” Reflecting on his teaching, Celapino added, “I’ve always thought, if you could talk about multiple things, there’s a chance that somebody in that classroom could hear you.”

Celapino’s students more than just heard him through the years. When Andy Kell ’94 and Tyler Blackmon ’12 were named Presidential Scholars, it was Celapino each identified as his most influential teacher. Students dedicated the yearbook to him twice. In 2008, Celapino was named an Ireland Chair, a recognition from his peers for exemplary teaching and other significant contributions in support of the mission of the school. He was selected to give the keynote speech at convocation in 2017. And this year, he received his third Conrow Miller Award, awarded by the 10-year reunion class to the faculty member they feel had the greatest influence on their time at Baylor.

In recent months, Celapino got a preview of retired life. Of his three hobbies, traveling, reading, and watching movies, he could indulge in two during quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I also tried gardening, but over the last few years, I’ve killed almost everything.”

I’ve always maintained that one of our better periods at school is lunch because you can hang out with educated people and you can talk books, movies, and history, you learn something from somebody, you can learn about science, you can actually sit down and have an interesting conversation about the Reformation. That, I always thought, has been the huge advantage about being in a place that values learning, values education.

“One of things that I worry about in retirement more than anything else is missing good conversation,” mused Celapino. “I’ve always maintained that one of our better periods at school is lunch because you can hang out with educated people and you can talk books, movies, and history, you learn something from somebody, you can learn about science, you can actually sit down and have an interesting conversation about the Reformation. That, I always thought, has been the huge advantage about being in a place that values learning, values education. You have a lot of interesting stuff to talk about.”

Celapino was selected to talk about “interesting stuff” at the final 2020 Round Table discussion of Orlando by Virginia Woolf. “I like Round Table because it’s based on the idea that we’re going to do this thing, we’re going to have this shared intellectual experience, and we’re going to discuss it. I think that’s about as good as it gets.”

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