South African revolutionary Nelson Mandela, jazz legend Billie Holiday and baseball superstar Cal Ripken are among the larger-than-life figures to be featured during this year’s William B. Crawley Great Lives lecture series. The lectures take place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, from Jan. 15 to April 9, at the University of Mary Washington’s Dodd Auditorium on the Fredericksburg campus. They are free and open to the public without admission tickets.
Award-winning biographers – some of whom have claimed the Pulitzer Prize – draw on the deep, rich, often revealing exploration of their iconic subjects. Who better to speak about some of history’s most prominent figures than the renowned authors who spent countless hours researching their lives and loves, their successes and failures, their strengths and imperfections.
“Quite simply, there is no other program comparable to it in the country,” said former Biographers International Organization President James McGrath Morris. Last year’s series drew more than 10,500 guests.
Subjects of the 18 lectures scheduled for this, the series’ 16th season, include celebrated musical-theatre writing team Rodgers and Hammerstein, enduring Russian politician Mikhail Gorbachev and prolific 20th-century entertainer Lucille Ball.
On Feb. 19, UMW alumna Joanna Catron, longtime curator of Gari Melchers Home and Studio, will share intricate details of the 18th-century Impressionist absorbed during nearly four decades of study.
The Great Lives series began as an academic course offered by the Department of History and American Studies. Certain lectures were opened to the Fredericksburg community, and the extraordinary response spawned a public lecture series held in conjunction with UMW’s “Great Lives: Biographical Approaches to History and Culture” course.
Soon after it began in 2004, the program received a significant endowment from John Chappell, whose late wife Carmen Culpeper Chappell graduated from the University in 1959. The Chappell family’s continued support, with that of local individuals and corporate sponsors, has sustained and propelled the series. Originally known as the Chappell Lecture Series, the program was renamed the William B. Crawley Lecture Series in 2016 for the professor who conceived it with a colleague and continues to direct it.
Repeating a phrase from previous years, Crawley said, “This lineup is the best ever.” He also described the 2019 mix of topics as eclectic.
Each Great Lives lecture concludes with an audience Q&A session with the speaker and a book-signing. Selected titles related to featured topics are available for purchase in the Dodd foyer. For more information, contact the Office of University Events and Conferencing at 540-654-1065 or visit umw.edu/greatlives.
- Jan. 15: Rodgers and Hammerstein, Todd S. Purdum, author of Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution
- Jan. 22: Bruce Lee, Matthew Polly, author of Bruce Lee: A Life
- Jan. 29: Mikhail Gorbachev, William Taubman, author of Gorbachev: His Life and Times
- Feb. 5: Benedict Arnold, Joyce Lee Malcolm, author of The Tragedy of Benedict Arnold: An American Life
- Feb. 7: Jane Goodall, Dale Peterson, author of Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man
- Feb. 14: Billie Holiday, Tracy Fessenden, author of Religion Around Billie Holiday
- Feb. 19: Gari Melchers, Joanna Catron, curator of Gari Melchers Home and Studio
- Feb. 21: Dale Carnegie, Steven Watts, author of Self- Help Messiah: Dale Carnegie and Success in Modern America
- Feb. 26: Nelson Mandela, Richard Stengel, author of Mandela’s Way: Lessons for an Uncertain Age
- Feb. 28: Oscar Wilde, Nicholas Frankel, author of Oscar Wilde: The Unrepentant Years
- March 12: Lucille Ball, Kathleen Brady, author of Lucille: The Life of Lucille Ball
- March 14: Radium Girls, Kate Moore, author of The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women
- March 19: Rocket Girls, Nathalia Holt, author of Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, From Missiles to the Moon to Mars
- March 21: J.R.R. Tolkien, Devin Brown, author of Tolkien: How an Obscure Oxford Professor Wrote The Hobbit and Became the Most Beloved Author of the Century
- March 26: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Caroline Fraser, author of Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder
- April 2: Gehrig and Ripken, John Eisenberg, author of The Streak: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken Jr., and Baseball’s Most Historic Record
- April 4: The Last of the Romanovs, Helen Rappaport, author of The Race to Save the Romanovs: The Truth Behind the Secret Plans to Rescue the Russian Imperial Family
- April 9: POW Wives, Heath Hardage Lee, author of The League of Wives: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the U.S. Government