UMW’s Great Lives Lecture Series

The William B. Crawley Great Lives Lecture Series is open to the public free of charge, and no admission tickets are required

Lectures begin at 7:30 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium, George Washington Hall, on the Fredericksburg campus of the University of Mary Washington. The auditorium opens at 6:30 p.m.

Video recordings of the lectures will be uploaded to the UMW Great Lives Lectures website and will be available in the weeks following the live lectures.

Interested in learning more? We're gathering lists of supplementary materials for each lecture, including books and movies you can check out from the library.

Lecture Schedule

Click subject names for details.

January 16: Wild Bill Donovan
January 18: Lewis & Clark/Sacagawea
January 23: Shakespeare
January 25: George VI & His Wife, Elizabeth
January 30: Sam Shepard

February 6: George Washington
February 8: Mary Lumpkin, Enslaved Woman & Liberator
February 15: Franklin D. Roosevelt
February 20: Picasso
February 22: Stan Lee
February 27: Martin Luther King Jr.
February 29: Rosemary Kennedy

Wild Bill Donovan
Lecture Date: January 16, 2024
The Synergy Periodontics and Implants Lecture
Speaker: Douglas Waller

He was one of America’s most exciting and secretive generals -  the man Franklin Roosevelt made his top spy in World War II. A mythic figure whose legacy is still intensely debated, “Wild Bill” Donovan during World War II was director of the Office of Strategic Services (the country’s first national intelligence agency) and the father of today’s CIA. Donovan introduced the nation to the dark arts of covert warfare on a scale it had never seen before.

Veteran journalist Douglas Waller mined government and private archives throughout the United States and England, drew on thousands of pages of recently declassified documents, and interviewed scores of Donovan relatives, friends and associates to produce a riveting biography of one of the most powerful men in modern espionage.

Wild Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage, which became a New York Times bestseller, a Washington Post Best Book for 2011, and a Wall Street Journal Notable Book for 2011.

Taken from the University of Mary Washington

List Card - GL - Wild Bill Donovan

Lewis & Clark/Sacagawea
Lecture Date: January 18, 2024
The Davenport & Company Lecture
Speaker: Dale Blanshan

Thomas Jefferson, years before his Presidency, dreamed of an expedition to the Northwest that would open the door to commerce and the Manifest Destiny of the new United States of America. When he became President, Jefferson had both the opportunity and the man, his own private secretary, Meriwether Lewis. Lewis invited William Clark, and together the two embarked, with a Corps of Discovery of twenty-nine men, a woman, and a baby, on a journey of over 7,000 miles.

Besides Lewis and Clark, a number of characters stand out: the "robust healthy hardy young men" who did the back breaking work of the expedition; York, the involuntary enslaved member; and Sacagawea, the “Indian woman”who carved out her own place in history by her wits and mere presence."

Lewis and Clark have been an intriguing topic for speaker Dale Blanshan ever since his first riverboat trip down the Snake and Columbia Rivers, travelling the same route and seeing the same sights as that famous duo.

Taken from the University of Mary Washington

List Card - GL - Lewis & Clark/Sacagawea

Lecture Date: January 23, 2024
The Stephen and Patricia Powers Gaske Lecture
Speaker: Elizabeth Winkler

Shakespeare is the most elusive of biographical subjects. “‘Shakespeare is present as an absence - which is to say, as a ghost,” the Harvard professor Marjorie Garber once wrote. What haunts is the very emptiness of the authorial identity, yet this emptiness that has proven remarkably fruitful for scholars.

This lecture will consider the history of attempts to construct a Shakespeare biography and their enduring popular appeal despite their fundamentally fictional nature.

Elizabeth Winkler is a journalist and book critic whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Times Literary Supplement, and The Economist, among other publications. Her first book, Shakespeare Was a Woman and Other Heresies, was published in 2023 by Simon & Schuster.

Taken from the University of Mary Washington

List Card - GL - Shakespeare

George VI & His Wife, Elizabeth
Lecture Date: January 25, 2024
The Gemini 3 Group Lecture
Speaker: Sally Bedell Smith

New York Times bestselling author and historian of the royal family Sally Bedell Smith will speak about her new book, George VI and Elizabeth: The Marriage That Saved the Monarchy.

George VI and his wife Elizabeth were introduced to new generations in the movie The King’s Speech, which focused on George VI’s debilitating stutter.

Sally Bedell Smith is the first biographer of the couple to get exclusive access to their letters and diaries in the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, a privilege granted to the author by their daughter, Queen Elizabeth II.

Ms. Smith sheds new light on their dramatic and little known love story, how they rescued the monarchy after the abdication of King Edward VIII, earned widespread admiration for inspiring the British people with their courage and compassion during World War II, and trained their elder daughter through example and instruction to be an exceptional monarch for more than seventy years.

Taken from the University of Mary Washington

List Card - GL - George VI & Wife

Sam Shepard

Lecture Date: January 30, 2024
The UMW Theatre Lecture
Speaker: Jon J. Winters

After an introduction to the life and work of Sam Shepard, John will examine the many themes that animate his 1984 play True West, which is being presented in the spring semester by the UMW Theatre Department.

The themes to be subsequently discussed will include the long and twisty roots of Shepard’s belief in multiple personalities, which in part drives the plot of True West. As an adult, this idea was reinforced for him through his involvement with G.I. Gurdjief, a Russian mystic of dubious reputation.

Jon will discuss the main ideas behind Gurdjief’s belief system and the ways in which it impacted both play and playwright.

Jon J. Winters is a veteran journalist, arts writer, educator, and author of Sam Shepard: A Life.

Taken from the University of Mary Washington

List Card - GL - Sam Shepard

George Washington
Lecture Date: February 6, 2024
The Roxanne M. Kaufman Lecture
Speaker: Alexis Coe

Young George Washington was raised by a struggling single mother, demanded military promotions, chased rich young women, caused an international incident, and never backed down - even when his dysentery got so bad he had to ride with a cushion on his saddle.

In a genre overdue for a shakeup, Alexis Coe takes a closer look at our first in her book You Never Forget Your First - and finds he's not quite the man we remember. She combines rigorous research and unsentimental storytelling, finally separating the man from the legend.

Taken from the University of Mary Washington

List Card - GL - George Washington

Mary Lumpkin: Enslaved Woman, Liberator
Lecture Date: February 8, 2024
The Virginia Partners Bank Lecture
Speaker: Kristen Green

In her book The Devils' Half Acre, New York Times bestselling author Kristen Green draws on years of deep research to tell the extraordinary hidden story of young Mary Lumpkin, an enslaved woman who sought freedom and lit a path for liberation for thousands more.

Mary Lumpkin’s story is one of many enslaved women whose stories have been all but erased from the American narrative. In this destitute setting, Mary not only found a way to educate and free her children - and herself - but she managed to create something monumental.

Taken from the University of Mary Washington

List Card - GL - Mary Lumpkin

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Lecture Date: February 15, 2024
The Irene and Curry Roberts Lecture
Speaker: Jonathan Darman

This revealing biography shows how Franklin Delano Roosevelt found his true self in his searing struggle with polio - emerging with a strength and wisdom he would use to inspire the world.

Becoming FDR: The Personal Crisis That Made a President shows how adversity can lead to greatness, and to the power to remake the world.

Taken from the University of Mary Washington

List Card - GL - FDR

Lecture Date: February 20, 2024
The Jon Properties/Van Zandt Restorations Lecture
Speaker: Marjorie Och

Few modern artists captured the popular imagination as did the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso.

Picasso’s influence on art and design in the 20th c. is indisputable. Moreover, for generations of creative individuals Picasso defined what it meant to be “an artist”: free, confident, assertive, connected, and always at the top of his game.

This talk will consider several works by Picasso within the context of his larger creative output and against the backdrop of 20th-c. artistic movements.

Taken from the University of Mary Washington

List Card - GL - Picasso

Stan Lee: Spider-Man & Marvel Comics
Lecture Date: February 22, 2024
The Yuh Prosthodontics Lecture
Speaker: Bob Batchelor

Join cultural historian Bob Batchelor on an exhilarating journey into the extraordinary life of Stan Lee, an icon whose legacy is as epic as the superheroes he co-created.

Batchelor presents Lee’s life in 10 pivotal moments, each encapsulating an era of modern history. From the Roaring Twenties to the Great Depression, the American Century to the twenty-first century, his journey mirrors the sweeping narrative of the nation itself.

Lee’s vision and creative genius revolutionized pop culture, introducing us to superheroes that were as complex and fallible as their creator (and all of us).

Taken from the University of Mary Washington

List Card - GL - Mary Lumpkin

Martin Luther King Jr.
Lecture Date: February 27, 2024
The John and Linda Coker Lecture
Speaker: Jonathan Eig

Vividly written and exhaustively researched, Jonathan Eig’s King: A Life is the first major biography in decades of the civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. - and the first to include recently declassified FBI files.

For the past seven years Eig has traveled across the country, meeting the people who knew King personally, recording their stories, and learning about the real MLK - the complicated one, the flawed one, the radical one, the one we really need in today’s bitter, divided world.

Taken from the University of Mary Washington

List Card - GL - MLKJr.

Rosemary Kennedy

Lecture Date: February 29, 2024
The Coldwell Banker Elite Lecture
Speaker: Kate Clifford Larson

Rosemary, Joe and Rose Kennedy’s strikingly beautiful eldest daughter, attended exclusive schools, was presented as a debutante to the queen and king of England, and traveled the world with her high-spirited sisters and brothers.

Yet Rosemary was intellectually disabled, a secret fiercely guarded by the Kennedys. Using new sources - Rose Kennedy’s diaries and correspondence, letters from Rosemary’s teachers and doctors, and exclusive family interviews - Kate Clifford Larson brings Rosemary alive as a girl adored but challenged to keep pace with her competitive siblings in Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter.

Taken from the University of Mary Washington

List Card - GL - Rosemary Kennedy

Edith (Mrs. Woodrow) Wilson
Lecture Date: March 12, 2024
The Chancellor's Village Lecture
Speaker: Rebecca Roberts

Beautiful, brilliant, charismatic, catty, and calculating, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson was a complicated figure whose personal quest for influence reshaped the position of First Lady into one of political prominence forever.

She climbed her way out of Appalachian poverty and into the highest echelons of American power and in 1919 effectively acted as the first woman president of the U.S. (before women could even vote nationwide) when her husband, Woodrow Wilson, was incapacitated.

Join Rebecca Boggs Roberts, author of Untold Power: The Fascinating Rise and Complex Legacy of First Lady Edith Wilson for a frank discussion of history, power, and Edith Wilson’s legacy.

Taken from the University of Mary Washington

List Card - GL - Mary Lumpkin

Billie Jean King
Lecture Date: March 14, 2024
The UMW James Farmer Multicultural Center Lecture
Speaker: Johnette Howard

When Billie Jean King set out to be a champion tennis player in the 1960s, she quickly realized the world she wanted didn’t exist yet for women. So she set out to help create it.

King’s subsequent achievements as an athlete and activist moved Life magazine to name her one of the 100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century.

Longtime journalist Johnette Howard, who co-wrote King’s best-selling 2021 autobiography All In, will explore the animating principles and takeaways King has gleaned during her life as an activist – observations that can apply to anyone’s life.

Taken from the University of Mary Washington

List Card - GL - Billie Jean King

Elizabeth Taylor
Lecture Date: March 19, 2024
The Jubilation by Silver Companies Lecture
Speaker: Kate A. Brower

No celebrity rivals Elizabeth Taylor’s glamour and guts or her level of fame. She was the last major star to come out of the old Hollywood studio system, and she is a legend known for her beauty and her magnetic screen presence in a career that spanned most of the twentieth century and nearly sixty films. But her private life was even more compelling than her Oscar-winning on-screen performances.

In the first-ever authorized biography of the Hollywood icon, author Kate Andersen Brower reveals the world through Elizabeth’s eyes in Elizabeth Taylor: The Grit & Glamour of an Icon.

Taken from the University of Mary Washington

List Card - GL - Elizabeth Taylor

George Remus: A Real-Life Gatsby

Lecture Date: March 21, 2024
The UMW Dining Lecture
Speaker: Abbott Kahler

In the early days of Prohibition, long before Al Capone became a household name, a German immigrant named George Remus quit practicing law and started trafficking whiskey.

Within two years he owned 35 percent of all the liquor in the United States and was known as the "King of the Bootleggers” - and even served as an inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby.

Drawing on her book The Ghosts of Eden Park, Abbott Kahler will explore the unforgettable, stranger-than-fiction story of a rags-to-riches entrepreneur and a long-forgotten heroine, of the excesses and absurdities of the Jazz Age, of America’s fascination with celebrity, and of the infinite human capacity to deceive.

Taken from the University of Mary Washington

List Card - GL - George Remus

Ten Caesars
Lecture Date: March 26, 2024
Speaker: Barry Strauss

Ten Caesars is the story of the Roman Empire from rise to reinvention, from Augustus, who founded the empire, to Constantine, who made it Christian and moved the capital east to Constantinople.

Rome’s legacy remains today in so many ways, from language, law, and architecture to the seat of the Roman Catholic Church.

Strauss examines this enduring heritage through the lives of the men who shaped it: Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Vespasian, Trajan, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus, Diocletian and Constantine.

Over the ages, they learned to maintain the family business - the government of an empire - by adapting when necessary and always persevering no matter the cost.

Taken from the University of Mary Washington

List Card - GL - The Ten Ceasers

Edgar Allan Poe
Lecture Date: March 28, 2024
The Russell and Barbara Stone ‘79 Mait Lecture
Speaker: Mark Dawidziak

It is a moment shrouded in horror and mystery. Edgar Allan Poe died on October 7, 1849, at just forty, in a painful, utterly bizarre manner that would not have been out of place in one of his own tales of terror.

What was the cause of his untimely death, and what happened to him during the three missing days before he was found, delirious and “in great distress” on the streets of Baltimore, wearing ill-fitting clothes that were not his own?

A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe a compelling dual-timeline narrative alternating between Poe’s increasingly desperate last months and his brief but impactful life, Mark Dawidziak sheds new light on the enigmatic master of macabre

Taken from the University of Mary Washington

List Card - GL - EAP

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