Past is Prologue

Clint Schemmer writes about history, heritage preservation and the American Civil War.  On Facebook: Past is Prologue  On Twitter: @prologuepast  ContactEmail Clint or call 540/374-5424.

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Line-up available for UMW’s 2009 ‘Great Lives’ lectures

You read it here first.

James Monroe, Patrick Henry, Frederick Douglass, Clara Barton, Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Twain and Hugh Hefner are coming to Fredericksburg soon.

Not in the flesh, of course. Not even Hugh Hefner.

No, these visitors will be of the intellectual kind, brought alive by authors, academics and other experts who strive to make them fresh and relevant for the likes of you and me. They’ll come to us through the good graces of the University of Mary Washington. The list of subjects and speakers for its sixth annual Chappell Lecture Series, which starts next month, just landed in my lap.

The series is named for the late Carmen Chappell, a 1959 Mary Washington graduate, and endowed by the Chappell family. The family also donated funds to build the university’s beautiful Centennial Campanile near George Washington Hall, where the lectures are held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings each spring semester. 

The series’ biographical approach to history has proven immensely popular over the years, so much so that UMW quickly had to move them from classrooms to the Fredericksburg campus’ Great Hall and then to Dodd Auditorium. The talks are a highlight of many area residents’ lives each winter and early spring.

Covering diverse time periods and disciplines, the lectures’ subjects have run the gamut from Genghis Khan to Princess Diana and from Pocahontas to Charles DeGaulle. Next year’s figures look as eclectic as always, starting with the Greek philosopher Socrates and ending with Ronald Reagan, the Republican icon known as the “Great Communicator.”

The university’s "Great Lives" website hasn’t posted the 2009 speakers yet, but it archives prior years’ lectures and provides audio and video versions of many of them to enjoy. The link is For further information, contact special-events coordinator Abbie McGhee at 540/654-1276 or

Here’s the 2009 schedule:

– Jan. 22: Socrates

Christopher Nelson, president, St. John’s College

– Jan. 27: Leonardo da Vinci

Bulent Atalay, UMW Department of Physics, author of Leonardo’s Universe

– Jan. 29: Patrick Henry

Richard Schumann, historical interpreter, Colonial Williamsburg

– Feb. 3:  James Monroe

Dan Preston, editor, Papers of James Monroe, and author of James Monroe: An Illustrated History

Feb. 5: John Marshall

Jean Edward Smith, Marshall University, author of John Marshall: Definer of a Nation

– Feb. 12: Frederick Douglass

Jeffrey McClurken, UMW Department of History and American Studies

– Feb. 17: Daniel Boone

Robert Morgan, Cornell University, author of Boone: A Biography

– Feb. 24: John Brown

Paul Finkelman, Albany Law School, author of Slavery and the Founders

– Feb. 26: U.S. Grant and Mark Twain

Mark Perry, author of Grant and Twain: The Story of an American Friendship

– March 10: Mary Magdalene

James Goehring, UMW Department of Classics, Philosophy, and Religion

– March 17: Clara Barton

Elizabeth Brown Pryor, author of Clara Barton: Professional Angel and last year’s well-received Lee: Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters

– March 19: Catherine the Great

Sean Pollack, Wright State University

March 26: John James Audubon

Andrew Dolby, UMW Department of Biological Sciences

– March 31: Mary Todd Lincoln

Jason Emerson, author of The Madness of Mary Lincoln

– April 2: James Farmer

Raymond Arsenault, University of South Florida, author of Freedom Riders

– April 7: Frankenstein

Susan Tyler Hitchcock, author of Frankenstein: A Cultural History

April 14    Harry Potter

Philip Nel, Kansas State University

– April 21: Hugh Hefner

Steven Watts, University of Missouri, author of Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream

– April 23: Ronald Reagan

Stephen Farnsworth, George Mason University, author of Spinner-in-Chief