Obituary: George Pepe, expert on Roman history and political theory, 83

George Pepe, a faculty member in classics, leads a class in 1996. (Photo: Washington University Archives)

George Pepe, who taught in the Department of Classics in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis for more than 50 years, died Tuesday, May 2, 2023, while in hospice near his home in San Diego. He was 83.

Born in 1939 and raised in New York, Pepe won a scholarship to attend a Jesuit high school in Manhattan, where he was introduced to Latin and Greek. In 1961, he graduated magna cum laude from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., earning a bachelor’s degree in classics. He then continued his studies in classics at Princeton University, earning his master’s in 1963 and doctorate in 1966.


Pepe joined the WashU faculty as an instructor in 1965. He was promoted to assistant professor of classics the following year and to associate professor in 1972. He was named full professor in 2003 and continued to teach even after his retirement as a professor emeritus in 2015.

Read more in the Department of Classics remembrance.

Pepe’s teaching and scholarship focused on Roman history and political theory, though he also taught beginning and intermediate Latin and Greek, among many other courses. He was a founder and longtime director of WashU’s “Text and Tradition” program, which introduced first-year students to the intellectual roots from which much of modern thought has developed.

Pepe served as chair of classics from 1992-2000. Other university service includes directing the Honorary Scholars and the Masters in Liberal Arts programs; serving as faculty adviser to Student Life; and serving on the Graduate Council and University Senate Council. His numerous honors include the Governor’s Award for Teaching Excellence (1992), WashU’s Distinguished Achievement in Teaching Award (1993) and the David Hadas Teaching Award in Arts & Sciences (2013).

Pepe is survived by his wife, Kathy Garcia; by his son, Anthony Pepe; and by his daughter, Rachel Pepe. A memorial service will take place June 2 at Washington University; details will be posted on the Department of Classics website. Memorial donations may be made to the George Pepe Scholarship, the Department of Classics or the University City Public Library.

Leave a Comment

Comments and respectful dialogue are encouraged, but content will be moderated. Please, no personal attacks, obscenity or profanity, selling of commercial products, or endorsements of political candidates or positions. We reserve the right to remove any inappropriate comments. We also cannot address individual medical concerns or provide medical advice in this forum.