Charles Stocking wrote his first book about animal sacrifice.
But it wasn't for the gore. The Western classical studies assistant professor was investigating animal sacrifices in relation to ancient Greek culture.
"The motive there is that I enjoy barbecue," he jokes about the book. "But you always have to have some personal motivation for pursuing something."
For Charles, he's always been passionate about ancient Greece. After being inspired by his brother to pursue classical studies, Charles attended Stanford University for his BA and master's and then UCLA for his PhD. He's been teaching courses about ancient athletics and Greek poetry at Western since 2012.
“It’s funny because my brother more or less taught me ancient Greek to clean up my act and get me off the streets,” Charles recalls. “Ever since then, I’ve really been in love with the subject. I’ve thought of myself doing something else, but classics always kept pulling me back, so it was really inescapable.”
While completing his PhD, Charles was a strength and conditioning coach at UCLA. He worked with many sports teams and provided consultation for a number of Olympic athletes, some of who have gone to world championships. He became interested in coaching after powerlifting competitively in California, managing to set a junior state record in the squat, which he is still very proud of.
However, Charles expresses that he was always more interested in the educational side of sports, drawing parallels between teaching and lifting.
“Every human body is different … as a function of always trying to get better and stronger, you’re always engaged in this process of problem-solving,” says Charles. “Everybody can reach a certain goal, but how you get there is always going to be different. It really does have to be tailored so there’s an intellectual investment in lifting and that same intellectual investment in coaching as well as teaching.”
Charles admits that he didn’t always see studying classics as a practical choice. He equates how he feels towards classics to how others feel when they play music — it may not seem useful or financially advantageous short-term, but the enjoyment makes it worthwhile. He says that this realization was one of the defining moments in his career.
Today, Charles is constantly thinking about the ancient world in relation to the modern world. His love for classics and passion for teaching is evident. He reveals that he doesn’t have a work-life balance in the sense that he doesn’t have a distinct separation between life and work. Instead, he lives for what he is doing academically.
For example, even when Charles is travelling, he brings his work with him. Charles is in charge of organizing a symposium that is held every year in Olympia, Greece where groups of scholars and Greek graduate students come together to have a conversation about the history of modern olympics.
Ultimately, he says one of the most rewarding goals of teaching classics is inspiring students to think differently about the world outside of their own and encouraging them to explore other aspects of the world.
“One student came up to me and said how profoundly the course impacted her," exclaims Charles. "She had never left Ontario before and now she travels all the time. It actually had this real impact on her to travel and to experience the world in other ways, and that’s really the aim of a course like that.”
Charles says that he doesn’t tend to think in terms of future goals anymore. Instead, he prefers to focus on the present moment, hoping to continue what he is doing for as long as possible.
He's still lifting at the gym to maintain his health, hinting that he may even return to competition in the near future.