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From Marty Morrison / University of Mary Washington

The University of Mary Washington kicks off its annual Great Lives lecture series on Thursday, Jan. 18.

Officially known as the William B. Crawley Lecture Series, the popular four-month program examines the lives of historical figures told through lectures by nationally prominent biographers and authors. The talks will be held at 7:30 p.m. on selected Tuesdays and Thursdays in George Washington Hall’s Dodd Auditorium and are open to the public free of charge.

The 2018 Great Lives lecture series begins Thursday, Jan. 18 with a lecture about Jonas Salk.
“This year’s series is characterized in a wide variety of topics, including medicine, music, science, literature, sports, fashion, civil rights, politics and business, and ranges from the well-known to the relatively obscure,” said Professor Emeritus William Crawley, Great Lives founder and director.

The session will open with a lecture on Jonas Salk, who developed the first successful polio vaccine, presented by author Charlotte DeCroes Jacobs. The series continues with 17 additional lectures, featuring topics that span history, from French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte to American business magnate, investor and philanthropist Warren Buffet. It will examine the lives of Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, and Richard Nixon, the only U.S. president to resign in disgrace.

The lectures also will take a closer look at some of history’s strong women, including the female soldiers of World War I, a path-breaking women’s basketball team of the Depression-Era Midwest and the women code breakers of World War II, whose efforts helped shorten the war and saved countless lives. In fact, two women with UMW connections are among those courageous code breakers, according to Crawley. One was a 1943 Mary Washington graduate; the other was the mother of retired UMW Professor Jane Gatewood, former director of the University’s writing center.

Two lectures will focus on figures who were significant, in different ways, on the civil rights movement: the heroic Tuskegee Airmen of World War II and activist Pauli Murray, who was friend, counselor and confidant to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Several popular authors from previous Great Lives lectures are returning, including Sally Bedell Smith, who is considered the preeminent contemporary American writer on the British Royal Family, according to Crawley. Other repeat lecturers include Stephen Watts, James McGrath Morris and John Farrell.

Each program includes a Q&A session with the audience. In partnership with the University Bookstore, selected titles related to that evening’s topic will be available for purchase and signing in the Dodd foyer.

For more information and a complete listing of lectures, visit or call the Office of University Events and Conferencing at 540-654-1065.

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