Some subjects of the 21st William B. Crawley Great Lives Lecture Series are universally known – William Shakespeare, Martin Luther King Jr. and Elizabeth Taylor, for example. Others, including liberator and visionary Mary Lumpkin and spymaster Wild Bill Donovan, are less familiar.
But all are intriguing characters whose stories are bound to enlighten audiences of the University of Mary Washington’s hugely popular Great Lives series. Lectures will be held Tuesdays and Thursdays from January through March 2024. All are open to the public free of charge and begin at 7:30 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium of George Washington Hall.
The 2024 Great Lives lineup was announced Tuesday evening at a gala presentation that drew about 140 community supporters, donors and sponsors to the ballroom of UMW’s Jepson Alumni Executive Center.
Series founder and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History William Crawley reminded the crowd of the program’s beginnings as an academic class focused on biography as a key to understanding history. Because prominent speakers were coming to campus, a decision was made early on to open lectures to the public.
The first Great Lives lecture was held in a 200-person space in Monroe Hall – ample space for the approximately 40 enrolled students but, as it turned out, way too small for a standing-room crowd that spilled into the hallways. Lectures were moved to the Lee Hall ballroom and then to the former Great Hall space at Woodard Hall before landing at UMW’s 1,200-seat Dodd Auditorium.
“Although the series is no longer an academic course, it does make it possible for Mary Washington students, as well as the larger community, to hear preeminent biographers from all over the country,” Crawley said. For that, he thanked the many area donors and sponsors who make the annual series possible.
Dates, topics and speakers for 2024 are:
Spymaster Wild Bill Donovan, presented by Douglas Waller. A World War I hero and lawyer, Donovan headed the Office of Strategic Services, precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency.
Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Sacagawea, presented by Dale Blanshan.
William Shakespeare, presented by Elizabeth Winkler.
George VI and Elizabeth, presented by Sally Bedell Smith. The remarkable marriage of George and Elizabeth saved the British monarchy, biographer Smith contends. They were the parents of Queen Elizabeth II and grandparents of King Charles.
Sam Shepard, presented by John J. Winters. An actor, director, author and playwright, Shepard lived in Virginia for many years. UMW Theatre will present Shepard’s play True West Feb. 15-24 at Klein Theatre in duPont Hall.
George Washington, presented by Alexis Coe.
Mary Lumpkin, presented by Kristen Green ’95. Lumpkin was an enslaved woman who later turned a notorious slave jail into a school for Black men, the precursor to Virginia Union University. Alumna Kristen Green is the author of Lumpkin biography The Devil’s Half Acre.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, presented by Jonathan Darman.
Pablo Picasso, presented by UMW Professor Emerita of Art History Marjorie Och.
Stan Lee, Marvel Comics legend, presented by Bob Batchelor.
Martin Luther King Jr., presented by Jonathan Eig.
Rosemary Kennedy, presented by Kate Clifford Larson.
First lady Edith Wilson, who quietly ran the country during the illness of President Woodrow Wilson, presented by Rebecca Roberts.
Billie Jean King, presented by Johnette Howard.
Elizabeth Taylor, presented by Kate A. Brower.
Jazz Age bootleg king George Remus, inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fictional Jay Gatsby, presented by Abbott Kahler.
Ten Caesars (Augustus to Constantine), presented by Barry Straus.
Edgar Allan Poe, presented by Mark Dawidziak.
More information is available online at umw.edu/greatlives.