List of Speakers - Season 2019-2020
September 12, 2019
"Life in the White House with
President James & Dolley Madison"
Bryan Austin & Michelle Greensmith
Bryan Austin is an actor, writer and director who takes extensive professional care in bringing the past to life. A graduate of Christopher Newport University with a degree in theatre, his professional acting career carried him to Louisville, Norfolk, Richmond and Northern California in a patchwork of styles and genres of theatre. Bryan has spent the past eight years portraying James Madison for the Colonial Williamsburg foundation. His scholarship as Madison has taken him all over the country for audiences such as the U.S. Senate's chief of staff, foreign dignitaries, and even TIME, He is a founding member of Our Historic Life, a historic repertory company that develops custom built, museum quality presentations for organizations all across the country.
Having worked in the theatre since age 13, Michelle Greensmith takes great pride in telling stories. There is a particular joy in researching and portraying a person's life as history has preserved it. With a Masters in Fine Arts in performance, she relishes the opportunity to portray incredible women like Dolley Madison. What a privilege to explore the relevance of today through the teachings of yesterday. Michelle is proud to have hailed from Arkansas and to have taught, performed and directed across the country from Montana to New York. She is currently based out of Virginia where she lives with her husband and two old dogs.
Dr. George Hillard
"English Churches & Cathedrals"
George Hillard was born in Georgia and raised in Baton Rouge. He entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1960, graduated in 1964, and was commissioned in the Infantry. He served in the Regular Army and Army Reserve for a total of 39 years, spending three years in the English Department at West Point. While in the Reserve. He pursued a career as a corporate HR manager and training director. He conducted leadership and management seminars in this country, Europe, the Pacific and South America. This civilian job sent him to "all the places he wanted to visit," and this included England.
A chance meeting at an Army logistics symposium resulted in a gift which literally changed his life: a well-worn text book used at the University of London. It was a history of English architecture. Its opening chapter dealt with the Anglo-Saxon period; thus the fire was lit, and his assignments in England took him near many of the surviving Saxon buildings. Since then - the early 1990's -he has spent a great deal of time photographing and writing about Saxon churches, as well as Norman and Gothic cathedrals.
Dr Elliot Engel
"A Dickens of a Christmas"
As great as his literary reputation remains today, Charles Dickens suffers from such an incomplete portrait in the minds of his readers. Professor Engel rescues him by enthusiastically tracing his astonishing life and writing career. Using biography, analysis, and large doses of humor, Dr. Engel reveals an author far more fascinating than the immortal characters he created in his novels.
January 23, 2020
Dr. Jonathan Gardner
"Finding our Origins with the Hubble and James Webb Telescopes"
Dr. Jonathan P. Gardner is the Chief of the Observational Cosmology Lab at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and the Deputy Senior Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope. He leads a group that studies the universe as a whole, from its dramatic beginnings in the Big Bang to the mysterious dark energy that will determine its future. The James Web Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, will look backwards in time to find the first galaxies that formed after the Big Bang, to trace the evolution into galaxies like our own Milky Way, and to connect the formation of stars and planets with the history of our own solar system.
Dr. Dennis Dimick
"Living in the Human Age"
Based on his many years as picture editor and environment editor for National Geographic magazine, Dennis Dimick presents a fast-moving, vivid slide show lecture that explores and explains the modern human era: how we got here, our current prosperity, and what looms on the road ahead. Dimick frames his visual discussion using an emergent idea called the Anthropocene, or Human Age, a new geologic era proposed by scientists that marks our trajectory and enduring impact on the planet as population rises, and demand for energy and food increases. He addresses accumulating environmental impacts such as pollution and climatic shifts, and how we might productively respond. His goal is to help us appreciate our place in nature and contemplate how we can contribute towards a more balanced future for ourselves and the planet.
The son of fisheries biologists, Dimick grew up on a sheep and hay farm in the Pacific Northwest near Portland. After completing agricultural journalism studies at Oregon State University and the University of Wisconsin, he began a four decade journalism career that included more than 35 years at the National Geographic Society in Washington, where he served as a photography editor and for a decade as the magazine's environment editor. With a focus on the collision between human aspiration and the planet, his National Geographic work included orchestrating major magazine projects on energy, climate change, soil conservation, global freshwater, world population, and the future of food security. Dimick lectures on the emerging Human Age or Anthropocene epoch, and his new Eyes on Earth project with photographer Jim Richardson emphasize seeing the Anthropocene and its meaning.
Julia Lane & Fred Gosbee
Castlebay – New England Celtic Music
Since 1986 Castlebay, composed of Julia Lane and Fred Gosbee, has been weaving together music of Ireland, Scotland, and New England. Julia and Fred have loved and researched traditional music for most of their lives and blend history, legend and experience into their personable performances. Their renditions of traditional and original songs are supported with Celtic harp, 12-string guitar, fiddle and woodwinds. Of particular interest to the duo are songs collected from traditional singers in Maine 75-100 years ago, many of which can be traced back to Irish or Scottish sources.
Julia Lane, singer, songwriter, and folklorist, began playing the Celtic harp in 1989. Self-taught, she rapidly became a skilled and exciting player, winning the Senior Professional division at the New Hampshire Scottish Games Harp Competition in 1990 and 1991 and the International Folk Harp Competition at Stonehill College in 1992. Julia has done extensive research in folksong archives throughout New England and is currently transcribing songs from the Flanders Collection at Middleburg College, Vermont.
Fred Gosbee, singer, songwriter, and storyteller, plays classic and 12-string guitar, violin, viola and Irish flute. He learned many traditional songs from his family, who worked as lumbermen in the forests of New Brunswick and Maine. His original songs have been sung and recorded by other artists. Fred has engineered most of Castlebay's recordings and has also built Julia's harps and many other instruments.
Dr. Francis Koster
"Update on the Science of Climate Change"
After Peace Corps service in Sierra Leone, Africa, Francis Koster returned to graduate school, where he started the University of Massachusetts first Energy Conservation and Solar Programs. His pioneering work in sustainability led President Jimmy Carter's administration to recruit him to build the nation's largest renewable energy program located at the Tennessee Valley Authority.
After the Carter administration, he returned to the campus and earned his Doctorate at UMass's Program for the Study of the Future. His academic work focused on the psychological defense mechanisms that enable leaders to repress warnings about environmental threats, such as climate change, to basic life support systems. He first wrote about how this denial mechanism was operating in the Climate Change arena in 1974, and has been studying and teaching about it ever since.
Dr. Koster's subsequent work on the impact of pollution on public health led to his being recruited to pediatric healthcare. Among many other accomplishments, he facilitated geo-mapping of environmentally caused illness.
After 'retirement,' he wrote three books. More recently, Dr. Koster decided to address the concealment of environmental threats to public health, and is creating a national movement called The Pollution Detectives, a 501(c)3, which loans "citizen scientists" simple-to-operate electronic devices that make invisible pollution visible.
Dr. Koster is married to Dr. Carol Spalding, President of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.