From Iraq to Ancient Greece
by Sara Curnow Wilson
Not only can Eamonn Connor ’12 disarm a bomb and identify the stages of rigor mortis, he can also describe the influences of Greek and Roman civilizations in everyday life. We caught up with Connor to discuss his unique background and how he connected his life experiences through an education in the classics.
What did you do before you attended Temple?
I joined the Army in 2005 just after graduating high school. After a very brief stint as an infantryman, I trained and became an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician, or a member of the Army's bomb squad in layman's terms.
Can you tell me anything about where you were stationed and what you did?
I wound up being stationed at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, NC. I spent most of 2008 deployed to Mosul, Iraq with my EOD unit. I am glad to have been able to serve in this capacity for my deployment, as it allowed me to focus on saving lives rather than taking them. I left the Army in early 2009 shortly after getting back, and moved back to my home area of South Jersey, and eventually Philadelphia.
What made you decide to go to Temple?
After spending a few years doing odd jobs and playing bar gigs with my band, I decided that it was time to make use of my GI Bill and go to college. I had already decided on a classics major before applying to any schools. Temple was the obvious choice, being the only public institution with a classics department in Philadelphia.
I had taken Latin and ancient Greek in high school and absolutely loved it. It was a fabulous choice, and the department was welcoming and engaging beyond anything I could have hoped for. Before long, archaeology became a serious interest for me as well and I picked up a double major in anthropology to get some additional training and experience of that sort.
What else did you do while you were a student at Temple?
For much of the time I was at Temple, I worked part-time as a medicolegal death investigator at the Southern Regional Medical Examiner Office in New Jersey, covering Cape May, Atlantic, and Cumberland counties.
What did you do there?
I conducted telephone and on-scene investigations of all non-natural deaths in our area. This included interviewing doctors, nurses, family members and witnesses, documenting death scenes with photography and written reports, assessing the state of the decedent's remains (body temperature, rigor mortis, lividity, defects such as wounds and trauma, etc.), and preparing the remains for transport. Occasionally, I was even lucky enough to assist in an autopsy!
That sounds fascinating.
The job was fascinating and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity. Dealing so closely with death and grieving provides powerful insight into the fragility of life, and my time in this job left me with a new perspective on what is truly important.
What have you been doing since you graduated?
After leaving Temple, I did a brief stint in a PhD program in ancient Greek history at Penn, but quickly realized that the path of the professional academic was not for me. Before long I landed a job at FutureScripts, a local Pharmacy Benefit Management company, with the assistance of a fellow graduate from Temple Classics.
I have spent the past year or so taking MBA classes at Saint Joseph's University, and expect to graduate in Spring 2016. I also got engaged in July to a girl I met in Greece a few years ago while on an archaeological excavation.
Congratulations! You've been busy. You’ve done so many interesting, but different, things. How do you think your life experiences have influenced each other?
I have learned many important lessons about the world and the people in it through the vastly different experiences I have had in my adult life. The military taught me how big the world is and how small a part of it we each are. My work as a death investigator helped me to appreciate how important compassion can be to a person in need.
My courses in the classics department at Temple helped me to stitch all of these lessons together, and to see that people have been struggling with the same issues, feeling the same joys, and suffering the same pains for millennia. These lessons from education have been among the most profound I have learned thus far, but would be dramatically less meaningful without the background of life experiences I had before them.