In Memory

James Nugent (Teacher)

James Nugent (Teacher)

James Nugent taught French, Latin 1, 2, 3, Business Math, Radio Club Advisor.

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02/25/17 07:18 PM #1    

Kevin Cloud Brechner (MHS '66)

I think I had Mr. Nugent for Latin for about 20 years.  It seemed like it.  Starting in Meadowdale Jr High.  I learned a lot from him.  I think I had Latin I, II, and III from him.   He had a robust sense of humor.  I will leave it at that, except to say that I think he would have enjoyed being a Roman citizen at the height of the Roman Empire.  I still have the mimeographed Latin I textbook by Harry F. Reinert, Jr. that he assigned in 9th Grade (1963) , mostly because of the slogan on the title page:


(Reproduction of pseudoarchaic inscription

from a later era)



(A cute way to say that Reinert probably made up the slogan)


That phrase has followed me forever since I read it.  I have returned to it many times in my life.  Language is the mother of knowledge.  Language underlies what we know.  What we know is determined by the language we use.  People who use a different language know things differently.  They think differently because their language is the mother of the knowledge they know.  That is why Native Americans view the world entirely differently than Euro Americans.  That is why people who are bi-lingual, like people who understand English and Spanish, can communicate with more people than mono-lingual people, and thus can have more power.  Religions each are a body of knowledge and each has its own set of terms and concepts.  People who believe in one religion tend not to use or embrace the language or knowledge of other religions. For example, the term "Holy Ghost" may have meaning in Christianity, but no meaning in Buddhism.    Thank you to Mr. Nugent for conveying that fundamental concept to me.  It has so many implications that help us understand bigotry, racial and religious intolerance, and hate crimes.  It all stems from and is based upon the language and vocabulary used.   Change the vocabulary and you can change the world.

I also remember Mr. Nugent because he tried to make Latin, which is basically a "dead" language, come alive, by teaching about the people and culture of the ancient Roman Empire. "Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres."  "All Gaul is divided into three parts."  Those are the opening words written by Julius Caesar himself in an autobiography of his military campaign in France, Belgium, and Switzerland.  By learning Latin, we learned the knowledge of the Roman people, how they thought, what they liked to eat, what they did for fun. I still remember Mr. Nuguent reading us a recipe from a grand Roman banquet where one of the main courses was "baby mice baked in butter served in a sow's udder."  That probably wouldn't be too popular today. 

He read to us of the Roman games from a 1958 book called "Those About To Die"  by Daniel P. Mannix, which told of the brutal and sadistic, and sometimes sexually cruel public spectacles held to entertain, appease, and sometimes bribe the populous.  "Ave Imperator, Morituri te Salutamus" which translates to "Hail, Emperor.  We who are about to die, salute you." was a phrase spoken by gladiators to the emperor prior to their the beginning of their fight to the death.  It gives the coin toss at the beginning of football games a new meaning.  It also shows us that MMA, Mixed Marshall Arts, is just a couple of notches below the Roman Games.  LINGVAMATERSCIENCÆ.  Politicians sponsored gladatorial contests to try to win votes.  As part of the event they sometimes would use small catapults to launch roasted fowl into the stands for people to eat.  He read us a passage about a twisted sponsor of a Roman game who catapulted live poisonous snakes called asps into the stands, which landed on a few unlucky people in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The Romans seemed to invoke the concept of "Fate" a lot.   All of this is stuff I remember learning in Mr. Nugent's class.

He taught us about the incredible spectacle at the Roman Coloseum, where they could flood the arena and hold mock naval battles.  I remember him describing one battle where they put Christian women on an island in the middle of the the Coloseum and had captive slaves swim to go ravage and kill them.  Then they sank the island and released hungry Nile crocodiles into the water to have lunch on the remaining women and the slaves.  If any of them tried to swim to safety they were dispatched by archers who stood in a ring around the lake.  Mr. Nugent then pointed out what  incredible engineering feats it was to create such events, but showing us photographs of the Coloseum today where you can see the elaborate tunnel system under the main floor of the arena used to bring people and animals into the area, and he pointed out how all of that was underneath the main floor of the arena which also could support the lake.  It makes Lady Gaga's performance at this year's Super Bowl, seem lame by comparison.  LINGVAMATERSCIENCÆ.  That is just some of what I learned from Mr. Nugent, and I thank him for giving me an awareness of the reality of a totally different world from the one we live in now, and for teaching me that Language is the Mother of Knowledge.


02/26/17 10:08 AM #2    

Kathy Christopher (Stack)

I really enjoyed your memory of Mr. Nugent Kevin!  I can see he certainly made an impact on your life with the knowledge he shared with your class!  It was an interesting memory, enjoyed picturing that era, and so happy I did not live in those times!  Thank you for sharing!  Obviously, you were a very good student, and paid attention in the classroom - I probably would have been doodling or something, and would not have learned all the interesting things that you certainly did.

02/26/17 06:24 PM #3    

Pat Adams (Benefiel)

I also had Mr Nugent as a teacher for French, English and Washington State history in Jr High and Latin and Philosophy in high school.  I can say for certain that he had a greater influence on me than any other teacher.  So much so that I made all three of my children study Latin.  My youngest got a degree in Classics (Latin and Greek) from UW four years ago, studying a quarter in Rome.  He got to see those sights Mr Nugent told us about. 

Mr Nugent was also a mentor to me. He connected with me with a veterinarian to see if that's what I wanted to do. When I seemed depressed he would ask me if I'd ridden my horse in awhile. But the thing I remember most about Mr. Nugent is that it was his personal philosophy to "do." I remember him flying airplanes and his business ventures.  Because of this infuence I can say that I have "done" almost everything I have ever thought to do and have had so many different careers.  

I used to argue with him about just about everything.  He was always kind and gracious. May he rest in peace.

02/27/17 09:50 AM #4    

Kenneth Jennings

Mr. Nugent (along with Mr. Bergen, the Chem teacher) were amateur (ham) radio operators and mentored many that were interested in radio and electronics.  So, in addition to all the other things he taught, I learned Morse Code from Mr. Nugent.  I think we would have been equally at home in ancient Rome, the renaissance, or the industrial revolution.  Truly a man for all seasons . . . and ages.

02/27/17 01:26 PM #5    

Kevin Cloud Brechner (MHS '66)

Thanks, Kathy.   I was doodling too while I was listening to Mr. Nugent's stories.  Reading your's and Pat's and Kenneth's comments about Mr. Nugent made me aware of all his other interests I didn't realize.  I didn't know that he was also fluent enough in French to teach it or his interests included ham radio.  I learned morse code in boy scouts and was a fan of ham radio as a kid.  I didn't even realize MHS had a radio club.  All I remember now is ... --- ....  

I enjoyed writing that rememberance of Mr. Nugent, and looking back at it, I have to say, that although Mr.King and Mr. Wiggington probably influenced me the most, I can't remember a single incident or story from either of their classes, yet so many of Mr. Nugent's stories are still active in my memory, including a couple I didn't write about.  So, I guess I have to conclude that Mr. Nugent was a far greater influence on my development than I realized.  Hhhm.

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