Graduate Achiever - Marguerite Johnson

There's a sticker on Dr Marguerite Johnson's door that reads: "WARNING: Addicted to Greek Mythology."

Step inside her office and there is no doubting its validity.

At The University of Newcastle, Marguerite has immersed herself in the literature of the Greeks and Romans. She also has a passion for the debts to antiquity that surround us, even writing an article on the Classical influences on Newcastle's City Hall and Civic Theatre.

Marguerite, the youngest of a big Catholic family, was the first to complete the Higher School Certificate and enter university.

"Uni, for someone from my socio-economic background just wasn't thought of,'' she says.

"If this university had not been here, tertiary education would not have been an option for me because my family could not have afforded it."

Marguerite did her BA majoring in Classical Studies and English Literature, then completed Honours and was awarded the University Medal.

Marguerite JohnsonShe then spent time at Newcastle Art School before embarking on her PhD.

An Australian Postgraduate Award helped fund her doctoral studies. While gaining casual work at the university as a Classics tutor and teaching into the Newstep and Open Foundation programs she also developed a passion for teaching.

Marguerite's PhD was on the Latin erotic poet Catullus, addressing how he portrayed his lover, Lesbia, within a Greek literary tradition. It is a topic that continues to fascinate and inspire some of her research to this day.

Marguerite's first book, Sexuality in Greek and Roman Society and Literature, which she co-authored with her colleague, Terry Ryan, features 160 original translations and has become widely used as a student text both nationally and internationally.

Among Marguerite's other books are Sappho, about one of the few female poets in ancient Greece, followed by Boudicca, an insightful series of portraits of the queen of the Iceni tribe.

"Research for me is the biggest release," she says.

"And it is meditative. When I'm researching, the outside world doesn't exist."

Marguerite says that while research is her "thing", it is sometimes difficult to manage long periods of uninterrupted time for it.

"Female academics often have to juggle family and career, and it is sometimes a challenge to find the time for the intense research and writing required to produce first-rate work," she says.

"I do a lot on weekends, but my family is supportive of my passion, as long as I do the sports-mum stuff on a Saturday morning."

From student to teacher to internationally renowned scholar, Marguerite's affiliation with The University of Newcastle spans decades: "I think that this uni is very much a place of equality.

It's not about background, class or race. It has a blue collar history and it cares for the children of blue collar families. That's what it did for me. That's what I love about it."