Who’s Who in Lincoln

A portrait of a person who is part of your community
By: Cheri March
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Name: Merilyn Copland Age: 61 Occupation: Professor of history, archeology and Old Testament studies at William Jessup University Accolades: The Who’s Who in America Teachers Award, 2002-06, and the Barton Fellowship at the Albright Institute of Archaeology, Jerusalem, 1990 Residence: Sun City Lincoln Hills How long have you lived in Lincoln? “I moved to Sun City two years ago. I loved the quaint old town and all the amenities they have for Sun City. Of course, I don’t take advantage of them because I’m still working, but it’s a wonderfully safe, friendly place to live. I have great neighbors.” How did you become an archeology professor? “I was a social work major in college and in my senior year, I went to my advisor. I had taken 15-18 units of psychology, all the required courses and all the recommended courses. He said, ‘Why don’t you take Chinese brush painting?’ Those were his exact words. He said, ‘You are more than your career, and I want you to take something for you.’ I looked at the course sheet and the only one that piqued my interest was archeology – and that was it. It’s one of the few occupations where you’re positive there is so much more to learn and there will always be something new. What can you tell about somebody’s life by what they’ve left behind? That still intrigues me.” What are your areas of expertise? “I did my dissertation at the University of California, Berkeley on the period of David and Solomon in the Bible. It’s connected with a site I was digging at for 10 years. I’m also interested in women in Christianity in the first century AD; their contributions in the beginning of Christianity. I’m not saying there’s a bias, but because the writers were men, if most people don’t read carefully, everybody assumes they were (only writing about) men.” Why do you insist on taking field trips, like the trip to Rome over spring break? “They all kept journals and I’ve been reading them; almost every single person says it’s amazing how this all comes alive. They’ve seen pictures of Pompeii and Rome, but being there is different. It really helped them think about how one city came to rule the world. Students are much more visual learners today than people 40 or 50 years ago. And the students were all just wonderful, which made it really, really pleasant.” What was the most memorable part of the trip? “It was different things and places for different people. But for most, it was Mamertine Prison, which is where the Apostle Paul was kept just before he was beheaded. We have a very different idea of prisons today, where people are held long-term with beds and facilities. This was basically just a hole they dropped you into until they executed you. It was next to a large sewer and sometimes they threw the bodies into the sewer. So (for Paul) to have that amount of faith to still feel it was worth it, I think the students remember that.” Besides work, what are your hobbies? “I love to read, to travel, to cook. But in a funny way, my job is all part of my hobby. I have been blessed not to have to do work in order to support myself doing something I enjoy.” So, what do archeologists really think of Indiana Jones? “Archaeologists care, because he sort of sets the field back about 150 years. The movies portray people looking for a thing – a glorified treasure hunt. It leads people to ask me, ‘What did you find?’ but archeology is actually finding out how ancient groups lived, so you find everything. In the case of Pompeii, you find an actual moment in time. Poor Indiana, he’s either looking for the Holy Grail or the Ark of the Covenant – it gives people the wrong idea. But we do have one thing in common. I don’t like snakes, either, and yes, they have turned up on digs.”