Great Lives Lecture Series Celebrates Tenth Year

The University of Mary Washington will present its 2013 Chappell Lecture Series, Great Lives, beginning in January and running through April. The popular series, now in its 10th year, examines the lives of historical figures told through lectures by nationally prominent biographers and authors. The talks will be held at 7:30 p.m. on selected Tuesdays and Thursdays in George Washington Hall’s Dodd Auditorium and are open to the public free of charge.

The Chappell Great Lives lecture series brings community members from across the region to UMW each spring.

The series will begin on Tuesday, January 24, and will include lectures on a wide range of major historical figures from Julius Caesar and Cleopatra to Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth II. Lectures also will represent the fields of art, entertainment, literature and sports, as well as several quasi-mythical figures, such as Rasputin and Lawrence of Arabia.

In keeping with the program’s tradition of including lectures by authors of recently published books, noted historian Douglas Brinkley will discuss the subject of his 2012 biography of iconic newsman Walter Cronkite.

While most of the Great Lives subjects are widely known, one of the 2013 lectures will be on a lesser known figure, Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Wilson’s biographer, Susan Cheever, is the daughter of noted 20th-century novelist John Cheever.

The final 2013 lecture will explore the link between great achievement and mental aberration through the lives of a number of major figures by Nassir Ghaemi. Ghaemi is the author of “A First Rate Madness” and professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Tufts Medical Center.

The programs include Q&A sessions with the audience and book signings by the author or speaker. Books will be available for purchase on site.

The series has been praised by James McGrath Morris, president of Biographers International Organization, who applauded Great Lives’ unique and innovative approach to life-long learning.

“Quite simply,” Morris said, “there is no other program comparable in the country to it.”

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

About Brynn Boyer

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