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Frank 'Mike' Metlar Clover 1940-2019
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In memoriam Frank Metlar “Mike” Clover

By Jeroen Wijnendaele:

I only found out a few days back that Mike [Frank] Clover has passed away on 13 July. Only five days prior, he had sent me an email tot congratulate me when I'd shared the news that I'd won my next postdoc. And only a few weeks earlier I received this little post package he'd sent to aid my current research. Mike was a scholar whom I never had the chance to meet in real life, but I'd like to order some thoughts about him because his passing saddens me deeply.

Mike had for decades been the greatest expert on the Vandals in Anglophone Academia. From the late 1960s on, when "Late Antiquity" only had just begun its slow march to claim autonomy, he published material that is key to understanding the Vandals, Late Roman Africa, and some of the most important events and dynamics of the fifth century West. He already retired in 2000, but firmly kept up to date with scholarship and people in the field. In 2014, I finished my book on a Late Roman warlord based in North Africa. Without any prior contact or connection, Mike was so kind to read the manuscript and provide a public endorsement. It was the beginning of a correspondence that meant a lot to me.


Having just finished my PhD, I had to think hard and fast about the next stage since my position was rather precarious in the aftermath. When I pitched my idea about working on Late Antique Kingship, Mike would send email after email with thoughts and material about the subject. His communication was always warm, encouraging and sprinkled with humour ("You have a tiger by the tail!"). One should realize that Mike's usual electronic communication consisted of telegram-style sentences. When I applied for a fellowship at his home institution, he even wrote by hand an old fashioned letter of recommendation for me since he declared "having the computer skills of a toddler".
In a period when all my academic applications were going nowhere, and I confessed throwing the towel in the ring, he was deeply sympathetic and understanding. He'd refer to Ludwig Schmidt, a German scholar who a century ago wrote some pioneering work on the 'Great Migration era', but never held an academic position. I still had another book under contract, but I wrote that this was something I had to do on a different time regime given I was looking for jobs to pay the bills. Mike responded, that "[b]asically you are becoming a Charles Ives. Charles Ives, composer of dissonant classical music in the early 20th century, realized that he could not support a family with his tuneless tunes, and so worked for an insurance agency, composing his music on weekends." But things worked out and we kept writing. Until two weeks ago.
For those who're interested to read more about Mike, I highly recommend the beautiful obituary that Ralph Mathisen (with the aid of friends and family) composed for his Doktorvater.
May the earth rest gently on you.

A longer obituary by Ralph Mathisen can be found here on the CLASSICS-L Listserv:
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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