UMW to Present “Great Lives” Series Starting in January

The University of Mary Washington will present its 2012 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series beginning in January and running through April. The popular program, which will examine the lives of a wide range of intriguing historical figures, is open to the public free of charge. The lectures will be held at 7:30 p.m. in George Washington Hall’s Dodd Auditorium on selected Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

The series begins Tuesday, January 24, with a lecture on Kurt Vonnegut by Charles J. Shields, associate director of the Great Lives Series. Shields is the author of the recently released “And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life,” the first full-length biography of Vonnegut. The book has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Shields also is the author of “Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee,” the bestselling biography of the author of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The 2012 series will continue with lectures on major figures such as Christopher Columbus, Marquis de Lafayette, Marie Curie and the Wright brothers. The recent biographers of Aaron Burr, Noah Webster, Clarence Darrow and Marie and Pierre Curie also will present lectures. The study of the Curies, by Lauren Redniss, is a current nominee for the National Book Award.

A presentation that has particular ties to the Fredericksburg area will be a panel discussion of the landmark 1967 case of Loving vs. Virginia, which involved the Caroline County couple, Richard and Mildred Loving. Participants will include the lead attorney in the case, Bernard Cohen, and the Lovings’ daughter, Peggy Fortune, a Caroline County resident.

Mildred and Richard Loving

A topic with special appeal to younger audiences will be the biography of Anne Frank, the courageous story of the Jewish girl whose diary of hiding from the Nazis was published after her death in a concentration camp.

There also will be one fictional biographical subject, Sherlock Holmes, presented by renowned British historian Jeremy Black.

The topic perhaps least known to the general public will be the life of Madame C. J. Walker, whose line of beauty products catering to African-Americans made her the country’s first female black millionaire.

As in the past, some lectures are scheduled for their historic timeliness. A presentation on Juliette Gordon Low, for example, by her recent biographer Stacy Cordery, will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts, the organization founded by Low.

Two lectures by leading Civil War historians will coincide with the 150th anniversary of the nation’s most tragic era. University of Georgia Professor Emeritus Emory Thomas will discuss J.E.B. Stuart and legendary Virginia Tech Professor Emeritus James I. “Bud” Robertson will examine the daily lives of Civil War soldiers.

For more information or for a complete listing of lectures, contact the Office of Events and Conferencing at (540) 654-1065 or visit

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News release prepared by: Charles J. Shields and William Crawley

About Brynn Boyer

Brynn Boyer is assistant director of media and public relations and a 2010 graduate of UMW.