Abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Hollywood actress-turned-inventor Hedy Lamarr and children’s author Theodor Geisel – better known as Dr. Seuss – are among the prominent individuals to be featured in this year’s William B. Crawley Great Lives lecture series.
Now in its 17th year, the stellar season was revealed to a packed reception Wednesday evening at the Jepson Alumni Executive Center. Lectures will take place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, from Jan. 21 to April 14, at the University of Mary Washington’s Dodd Auditorium on the Fredericksburg campus. They are free and open to the public without admission tickets.
Bestselling biographers – many of whom are distinguished historians and award-winning journalists – have spent countless hours chronicling the fascinating lives of their iconic subjects. At UMW, they’ll showcase these celebrated historical figures – notorious, in some cases – and provide illuminating insight into their lives and loves, successes and failures, strengths and struggles.
“I always say this, but this season is probably the most impressive lineup ever,” said Professor Emeritus William Crawley, Great Lives founder and director, who added he is confident that audiences will find multiple topics of interest.
Great Lives kicks off Jan. 21 with Ronald Reagan. Initially unpopular as a politician, the 40th U.S. president won a landslide victory and became one of the most consequential figures of our time. A lecture later this spring will focus on Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court Justice, whom Reagan appointed to the bench.
Spanning history and geography, other highlights this season include enigmatic scientist and disability icon Stephen Hawking; Karl Marx, the 19th century’s fierce critic of capitalism; and British author and theologian C.S. Lewis, who penned The Chronicles of Narnia.
Renowned authors will delve into golf pro Tiger Woods’ scandalous fall-from-grace, and the psychedelic genius of The Beach Boys. Another lecture explores the masculine mystique of President John F. Kennedy and his fictional contemporary, James Bond.
Several programs celebrate unsung female heroes like the D-Day Women, British spies and saboteurs who laid the groundwork for the World War II invasion. This season’s final lecture honors the pioneering but lesser-known women aviators whose awe-inspiring adventures rivaled their male counterparts.
First introduced as an academic course by the Department of History and American Studies, Great Lives ended up being a public lecture series held in conjunction with UMW’s popular history course: “Great Lives: Biographical Approaches to History and Culture.”
Shortly after its 2004 launch, the public series received a generous endowment from John Chappell, whose late wife Carmen Culpeper Chappell graduated from Mary Washington in 1959. The Chappell family’s continued support, with that of local individuals and corporate sponsors, has sustained and propelled the series. For more information and a detailed schedule, go to umw.edu/greatlives or contact the Office of University Events and Conferencing at 540-654-1065.