John Francis Greene (1868-1933), professor of classics, was born in Seekonk, Massachusetts, on April 13, 1868. He graduated from Brown in 1891 and the next fall was made an instructor in Greek, which he taught until 1894, when he asked to be assigned to the teaching of Latin. He received his master’s degree from Brown in 1901 and was named assistant professor of Roman literature and history in 1911. He spent his whole life at Brown in “pure teaching,” uninvolved in publication and research. His influence went far beyond the classroom, as he visited fraternity houses and dormitories and read and spoke to student groups. The Providence Evening Bulletin editorial the day after his death on February 7, 1933, read,
“For many years it was a tradition at Brown that no student’s education was complete unless he had taken a course or two under ‘Johnny’ Greene. Even engineers emerged from their mysterious building and still more arcane wrestlings with such factual foes as graphs, weight of materials and conservation of energy to sit beneath the warm sun of ‘Johnny’s’ beaming smile and learn that building better bridges or higher skyscrapers was a part not the whole of life.
“Under the guise of courses in Roman literature or civilization, which were used as background to point out a moral or adorn a tale, ‘Johnny’ taught living; the joy, satisfaction, beauty and merriment that life held for those who approached it eagerly and expectantly. When the facts of biology, geology or psychology mastered in undergraduate days had slipped quietly into the dustbin of memory, there remained, in the minds of most Brown men, the essence not of facts but of the spirit of his courses; tolerance, charity, laughter, good nature, kindly feelings, understanding – the virtues that soften the hard enough journey through the world and invite the traveller to move his eyes from grim fixation on a set goal and rest them on the loveliness of the whole horizon.”