Lane Cooper sitting at a desk, reading a document, via Cornell University’s Rare and Manuscript Collections Images

Lane Cooper has long been an important figure in my life, even though I never met this Cornell University English professor, who died in 1959 at the age of 84. Today, if Cooper is remembered at all, it is probably for his amplified English versions of Aristotle’s Poetics and Rhetoric—both still commonly met with in used book stores. But to me he represents the kind of humanistic scholar and teacher that I’ve always admired and once aspired to become.

Most of Cooper’s books are devoted to encouraging students to make the classics a central part of their intellectual lives. To th ...