2001-2002 Convocation: Origins

Digital archives of convocation speakers are available through the Olin Library.

Origins of Origins

By Joe Horenkamp, University Communications

This year’s convocation series, appropriately named Origins, has wrapped up. Dr. Roger Young, convocation director, spoke with me about the creation of the convocation series and its implications on Drury.

According to Young, the theme of Origins came about in the summer of 2000. During a faculty meeting, the idea for Origins was posed. Young added, “And we thought, wouldn’t it be a great idea if we could have a theme per year, so we could base some of the more variable aspects of the curriculum, including convo, on a particular theme.” After several meetings, the Origins theme was introduced.

After the Origins series was created, speakers were sought to fit within this new framework. Unlike convocation series in the past, this year’s series actually has a specific focus, “but it’s a pretty flexible theme, origins of art, or origins of music, or origins of anything,” Young said.

The year started with The Rite of Spring performance in early September. The Chamber Orchestra of the Ozarks performed this Stravinsky masterpiece and, in turn, exemplified the origins of music. Guy Raymond of Franklin Quest Co., spoke on September 13 about time management. The first movie night followed this with 2001: A Space Odyssey.

On October 4, James Burke spoke about the linking of seemingly random events and how they reflect scientific, technological and historical progress. Benjamin Jacobs followed this with his “origins of evil” presentation. Jacobs was forced to pluck gold teeth from dead bodies while in the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Bestselling nonfiction author, Erich von Däniken spoke November 1 reflecting the origns of human existence. Katy Siegel followed this with information about the origins of art. The second movie night was Saving Private Ryan, and this was appropriately followed by Bill Cantrell’s convo honoring veterans on November 15.

The new semester continued the powerful presentations. Convo speakers include television and film director Regge Life, tobacco educator and inspiration of the film The Insider Jeffrey Wigand, author and scientist Brian Greene and biologist and language evolution researcher Terrence Deacon.

These days Dr. Young is working hard to dispel Drury students’ preconceptions about convo in past years. He said, “I think convos have had a bit of a bad rap in the past and it’s hard to shake that image. It will certainly take a year or two to shake the image of convo being something boring to go to.”

Guy Rehmann

September 13, 2001

Guy Rehmann joined Franklin Quest Co. because his personal values, principles, and mission statement align well with the values and mission of Franklin Quest Co. As a Training Consultant, he enjoys the opportunity to help others identify their values and achieve their goals.

Guy brings a rich mix of training and operations experience that help him relate to the participants in the seminars he presents. Guy graduated from Illinois State University before working twelve years as the head of field operations for several companies, including Wal-mart, Roadway Package System, Inc., and Preston Trucking Co. As the District Manager for the Transportation Division of Wal-mart, Guy was responsible for six locations, 42 field managers, 1251 employees, and an operating budget of $106 million. Guy owned a consulting business in Peoria, Illinois. He has taught management, leadership skills and empowerment principles. His seminars are quick-paced, fun, and motivating.

In his free time Guy loves to fish, golf, and play tennis and ice hockey. He is a member of the Lion's club and Toastmaster's International which has recognized him for his superior presentation skills. He lives in Illinois with his wife Alesa and daughters Lindsay and Erin.

James Burke

James Burke

October 4, 2001

James Burke has been called "One of the most intriguing minds in the Western world" (Washington Post). Since the debut of his 1979 PBS series Connections, he has specialized in linking seemingly random events to outline the progress of science, technology and history. Thanks to satellite and cable technology, James Burke's audience is global. His influence in the field of the public understanding of science and technology is acknowledged in citations by such authoritative sources as The Smithsonian and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates. His work is on the curriculum of universities and schools across the United States. In 1965 James Burke began work with BBC-TV on "Tomorrow's World" and went on to become the BBC's chief reporter on the Apollo Moon missions. For over thirty years he has produced, directed, written and presented award-winning television series on the BBC, PBS and The Learning Channel. These include historical series, such as Connections (which achieved the highest-ever documentary audience), The Day the Universe Changed, and Connections2; a one-man science series, The Burke Special; a mini-series on the brain, The Neuron Suite; a series on the greenhouse effect, After the Warming and a special for the National Art Gallery on Renaissance painting, Masters of Illusion. He is at present working on a large interactive knowledge system which is due online in 2002.

Benjamin Jacobs

October 25, 2001

While the origins of evil are hard to trace, its modern expressions have reached new heights of terror. Benjamin Jacobs was yanked from his life as a student and sent to the Auschwitz death camp. He was ordered to remove gold teeth from the jaws of corpses. He joined the Nazi "death march," pushed ahead of the advancing Allied forces as World War II neared its end. Loaded onto a ship with 15,000 prisoners, he survived when the ship was bombed and sunk by the Allies.

"I stood transfixed and looked up at the sky. Where are the souls of the millions of people who rose up in ashes? Now, I thought, the guilty prosper, raise families and are good fathers and grandfathers." – The Dentist of Auschwitz: a Memoir

Erich von Däniken

November 1, 2001

Erich von Däniken has become famous for an infamous idea: that the origins of human culture lie not simply in evolution, but in the influence of extraterrestrial beings. Beginning with his first book, Chariots of the Gods?, the world's most successful non-fiction writer has argued that the artifacts of ancient cultures show evidence of these visitors, who were sometimes viewed by humans as gods. Von Däniken is the first to admit that these vistors never actually were gods, but space travelers mistaken by man for godsdue to their advanced technology.

Over the past 30 years, Erich von Däniken has written 26 books which have sold over 60 million copies worldwide, thus making him the most successful non-fiction writer of all time. Born on April 14th, 1935, in Zofingen, Switzerland, Erich von Däniken was educated at the College St. Michel in Fribourg, where already as a student he occupied his time with the study of the ancient holy writings. While managing director of a Swiss 5-Star Hotel, he wrote his first book, Chariots of the Gods?, which was an immediate bestseller in the United States, Germany, andlater in 38 other countries.

In the United States, Erich von Däniken won instant fame as a resultof the television special In Search Of Ancient Astronauts, basedupon his first book. From his books two full-length documentary filmshave been produced, including the international blockbuster Chariots ofthe Gods and Messages of the Gods. Chariots of the Gods was the firstfeature film ever to be shown on a Jumbo jet!

In 1993, the German television station SAT-1 started a twenty-fivepart TV series with and by Erich von Däniken, entitled Auf den Spurender All-Mächtigen (Pathways of the Gods). In 1996, the American TVcompany ABC/Kane produced a one-hour special, filmed all over the world,entitled Chariots of the Gods - The Mysteries Continue. This film wasbroadcast on the ABC network on September 26th, 1996, reaching an audienceof over 9 milion viewers. The same year, ABC/Kane produced anotherdocumentary with Erich von Däniken that was later seen on the DiscoveryChannel. RTL, Germany's biggest TV network, showed the film on November26th, 1996. 7,7 million viewers in Germany alone tuned in to watch theprogram. In 2000, Erich von Däniken traveled extensively to be featuredon FOX's new version of In Search Of... which will be aired on FOX andthe USA Network in the fall of 2001.

Odyssey of the Gods, another book by von Däniken, is about Greek mythology, and was published in May 2000 by Element Books.

Of the more than 3,500 lectures which Erich von Däniken has given in25 countries over the past 30 years, some 600 were presented atuniversities. Fluent in four languages, Erich von Däniken is an avidresearcher and an energetic traveler, averaging 100,000 miles per yearto visit remote places of the Earth. This enables him to closely examinethe phenomena about which he writes. He was awarded with an HonoraryDoctorate degree by the State University of Bolivia.

Today, Erich von Däniken lives in the small mountain-village ofBeatenberg in Switzerland. Together with two committees he is currentlybuilding a giant theme park Mysteries of the World in Switzerland. Asthe title implies, the park will bring together all the"mysteries of the world" in one place and will present them byusing the latest in cutting-edge multimedia technology. Erich vonDäniken is the founder of the committees and also the vice president ofthe joint-stock company. The Mysteries of the World theme park willopen its gates in August of 2002 in Interlaken, Switzerland.

In 1998, Erich von Däniken, together with Giorgio A. Tsoukalos andUlrich Dopatka, founded the Archaeology, Astronautics and SETI ResearchAssociation. The AAS RA publishes the English journal Legendary Times,which is the only journal in the world to exclusively report about thelatest research in the Paleo-SETI/ancient astronaut field.

Katy Siegel

November 8, 2001

"Since the late nineteenth century, artists have absorbed the lessons of technology and then presented them to us as a taste of our own medicine." – Katy Siegel, ArtForum, 2000 Art historian, curator and critic Katy Siegel, PhD deconstructs contemporary art quickly and cleanly, rooting out the cultural references that give a work resonance. An assistant professor of art at Hunter College, New York, Siegel's thoughts on technology, art and culture are found frequently in the nation's top magazines. She is also a frequent author of articles for the highly respected and well read ArtForum magazine.

Bill Cantrell

November 15, 2001

Bill H. Cantrell, a Springfield native and highly decorated fighter pilot, has been a businessman, banker, restauranteur, civic leader and most recently a writer. He has been president of almost everything he's been involved with, including the Springfield School Board and the Drury Alumni Association. He has also served on the Springfield City Council and the Drury Alumni Council. In his book, Friends, Dear Friends, and Heroes, Bill Cantrell writes about his years growing up in Springfield and at Drury and his experiences as a pilot during World War II. Proceeds from this book have been designated for the Semper Fidelis Scholarship at Drury.

Jack Conrad

January 17, 2002

For 100 days, Drury alumnus Jack Conrad was part of a team exploring the Sahara Desert searching for new species of dinosaurs.

The team found fossils of the 600-toothed Nigersaurus, and also discovered several new species of dinosaur and a site full of human fossils. And they brought the world along for the ride, through almost-daily updates to the Dinosaur Expedition 2000 Web site, run from a tent in the middle of a desert town.

Jack Conrad is a PhD candidate studying paleontology at the Universityof Chicago. His current research includes describing the endangeredChinese crocodile lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus), the evolution ofthe Anguimorpha (Gila monsters, monitor, limbless, and crocodilelizards), and the origins of snakes. He is also interested in therelationship between size and the appearance of new body plans and isworking on the early evolution of Synapsida (the stem from which mammalsarise).

The Drury alumnus says that the Biology Department at Drury wasinstrumental in helping him prepare for graduate work. The disciplinehe learned at Drury helped Jack to survive and appreciate the arduous101-day trip to Africa last year.

While on the expedition Jack and his teammates discovered over 20 tonsof fossils, including at least 5 new predatory dinosaurs; 5 newherbivorous dinosaurs, as many as 6 new crocodiles - from the largest inthe world to one less than three feet long; 3 new turtles; new fish,arthropods, and seeds; and, doubtless, mammal teeth and the bones ofother small animals lurking in the sediment. Expedition leader PaulSereno has called this the most productive paleontological expeditionever.

Regge Life

Regge Life

January 24, 2002

The founder of Global Film Network, Inc. and Executive Producer/Director for Doubles, and After America...After Japan, Regge Life, produced his first work in Japan, Struggle and Success: The African American Experience in Japan, in 1992. Regge Life initially went to Japan as a Creative Artist's Fellow with the Japan/US Friendship Commission and Bunka-cho. During his fellowship, he met Yamada Yoji, and observed the making of Tora San #43. At the end of his six month fellowship, he began planning a documentary on African Americans living in Japan. Regge Life has worked with CBS News' Saturday Night with Connie Chung and NBC's Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. He is the recipient of many awards including four CINE Golden Eagles. He was honored by the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and chosen a Sony Innovator in 1991. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Tufts University, a Master of Fine Arts degree from New York University School of Arts and enriched his education with a course in Cinema Studies at Harvard University.

Brian Greene

Brian Greene

February 6, 2002

Brian Greene is trying to do what Einstein could not: find a single theory to describe the universe. A physicist who has been working on the unified theory of superstrings for more than a decade, Greene's work has led to a number of ground-breaking discoveries. He also is praised for being able to explain cutting-edge research to members of the physics communities and also the general public.

Brian Greene's most recent book, The Elegant Universe has received critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, winning the the 2000 Aventis Prize for Science Books.

Greene received his undergraduate training at Harvard University where he graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1984. He went on to graduate school at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and received his doctorate in 1986. From 1987-90, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, and in 1990 he joined the faculty of Cornell University as an assistant professor. He is currently a professor with dual appointments in both the physics department and the mathematics department of Columbia University, NY.

His research interests focus on the quantum mechanical properties of space and time. In 1990, Greene and a Harvard colleague discovered mirror symmetry -- a remarkable property of string theory that has launched a vibrant field of research in both mathematics and physics.

In the mid-'90's, Greene and his colleagues made another startling discovery. Einstein's general relativity theory shows that the fabric of space can stretch in time (resulting in our expanding universe), but it does not allow the fabric to rip. To the contrary, Greene and his colleagues showed that in string theory -- by including quantum mechanics -- the fabric of space can tear, establishing that the universe can evolve in far more dramatic ways than Einstein had envisioned.

Professor Greene has lectured at both a technical and popular level in more than twenty countries. In 1997 he lectured at the Symposium on Strings and Black Holes, along with Stephen Hawking and Edward Witten. He also spoke at the Harvard Lecture Series on Science for the General Public and the Heinz Pagel Memorial Lecture Series for the Public. He directed the Theoretical Advanced Study Institute in 1996 and is on the editorial board of Advance in Theoretical and Mathematical Physics.

Juris Zarins

Juris Zarins

February 6, 2002

Dr. Juris Zarins is a professor of sociology and anthropology at Springfield's Southwest Missouri State University. He has been involved in archaeological fieldwork in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Oman, and was chief archaeologist in the Transarabian Expedition that discovered the ancient city of Ubar. This famous expedition was featured in The New York Times, and made the list of the ten most important discoveries of 1992 by Discover, Time and Newsweek magazines. The expedition was also the subject of the NOVA program Lost City of Arabia. Dr. Zarins has published articles on a variety of topics concerning the archaeology of the Near East, and is currently involved in a new project in Yemen. His topic on Theme Day at Drury will be "The perception of reality."

Don Johanson

February 21, 2002

When Don Johanson unearthed the fossils of a 3.18-million-year-old human in 1974, he knew his discovery would change the world. Even before the skeleton was named Lucy, it had forced scientists to rethink how humans have evolved. Since that day, Johanson has continued to make major discoveries as he searches for evidence of how ancient people lived. He is now the director of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University.

Kenneth Miller

Kenneth Miller

February 28, 2002

Kenneth Miller, professor of biology at Brown University and the author of Biology: The Living Space and Finding Darwin's God, sees evolution as a system that God set forth. It is a system, in accord with religion that gives meaning to each individual's life. "Seen in this way, evolution was much more than an indirect pathway to get me. By choosing evolution as his way to fashion the living world, he emphasized material nature and our unity with other forms of life. He made the world too contingent upon the events of the past. He made our choices matter, our actions genuine, and our lives important. In the analysis, he used evolution as the tool to set us free," Miller said in Finding Darwin's God.

In many fiery discussions between creationists and evolutionists, Miller tries to find a common ground between the two. In his belief that evolution is compatible with religion he tries to persuade believers that evolution is not inherently hostile to religion and many of their objections areillusory.

Miller also tries to argue against those who believe evolution is toounpredictable, cruel and indirect. The contingent nature of any historicalprocess makes evolution unpredictable. Evolution is not cruel because itjust points out the fact that all living organisms will die and evolutioncannot have a problem of being indirect unless we ignore the indirectpathways between our personal and political history.

"We cannot yet explain everything about our natural history, but we knowenough to be sure that Darwin's mechanism was at the heart of it. How did weget here? We were produced by what Darwin called 'descent withmodification,' a process of change that links us with the grand story oflife on earth. In other words, like everything else on this warm andwonderful planet, we evolved," Miller said in one of his several letters toPhillip E. Johnson, professor of law at University of California (Berkeley)and author of Darwin on Trial.

Miller has had many debates, discussions and he has answered many questionsover the years on the topic of evolution and "how we got here." Miller doesnot hide the fact that he is a devout Christian nor does he ignore thefacts, such as fossil records, about the evolution of man. So in the debateover the two he tries to find a bond that links them together.

Riane Eisler

Riane Eisler

March 7, 2002

Renowned social scientist and cultural historian Riane Eisler is becoming increasingly recognized as one of the most original thinkers of our time. She is President of the Center for Partnership Studies, and is best known for her international bestseller The Chalice and The Blade: Our History, Our Future. Eisler's latest book, Tomorrow's Children, applies her partnership model to modern education.

Hidden deep in several modern religions are references to a more peaceful time - a time when men did not rule the world. Ancient artifacts suggest that these societies honored mothers, and that the almighty beings were usually goddesses, not gods. Riane Eisler's landmark book The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future uses these prehistorical findings as a basis for re-evaluating men's and women's roles in modern society, and arguing that a balanced partnershipmay lead the way to societal harmony.

Riane Eisler keynotes conferences worldwide, and is a consultant to business and government on applications of the partnership model she introduces in her work. She has taught at the University of California and Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles, is a founding member of the General Evolution Research Group, a fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science and the World Business Academy, and has worked as a cultural historian and evolutionary theorist over the last twenty years.

Jeffrey Wigand

Jeffrey Wigand

March 28, 2002

As a researcher at Brown & Williamson Tobacco, Jeffrey Wigand knew many secrets. In 1994, he began telling them, revealing how companies suppressed evidence of tobacco's addictiveness and unhealthiness. His courage helped originate a new awareness of how tobacco products are engineered for maximum profits and little else. His courage was the inspiration for the 1999 film, The Insider. Wigand recently founded the Smoke-Free Kids Foundation, and now educates teenagers and the public on how tobacco is marketed to young people.

A native New Yorker, Dr. Wigand was born in New York City but now calls Charleston, South Carolina home. He earned academic degrees with distinction from the University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and more recently obtained a Masters Degree in Secondary Education (MAT) from the University of Louisville.

Dr. Wigand taught Japanese and Science (Biology, Chemistry and Physical Sciences) at duPont Manual High School, a national school of academic excellence, in Louisville, Kentucky for three years and received national recognition for his teaching skills when he was awarded the Sallie Mae FIRST CLASS TEACHER of the YEAR in 1996. He was one of 51 teachers recognized nationwide.

Dr. Wigand has always been a teacher, but not always in the classroom. He held senior management positions with a number of leading health care companies, including Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, and then served as Vice President for Research and Development for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation from December 1988 to March 1993. After his separation from Brown & Williamson, Dr. Wigand cooperated with governmental agencies investigating the tobacco industry. Dr. Kessler, the former Commissioner of the FDA, has acknowledged that Dr. Wigand's assistance was central to the FDA's investigation into the role and effect of nicotine in tobacco products.

Mitzi Eilts

April 4, 2002

Mitzi Eilts is the National Coordinator for the United Church of Christ Coalition for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender affairs. She is a nationally recognized speaker for the gay community and its ties with religion. Her influence has helped to raise awareness and provide support and sanctuary to those with alternative lifestyles.

Terrence Deacon

April 18, 2002

Why can't animals talk? From this simple question, Terrence Deacon has launched an investigation into the evolution of language. As a neuroscientist, Deacon uses a scientific approach to the issue, with results that have broad implications for human culture. His book The Symbolic Species culminates in the suggestion that we created language to express symbolic ideas.

"This superb and innovative look at the evolution of language could only have been written by Terrence Deacon. An extraordinary achievement!" – David Pilbeam, Harvard University anthropology professor

Terrence Deacon is an Associate Professor who received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in Biological Anthropology and is currently directing the expanding biological anthropology component of the Boston University Anthropology curriculum. He came to Boston in 1992 after teaching at Harvard for eight years. Professor Deacon's research focuses on the evolution of the brain and he is best known for his work on the evolution of the human language abilities. His new book The Symbolic Species summarizes this research. He is currently involved in neurobiological using cross–species transplantation of embryonic brain tissue both to study evolutionary and developmental brain differences and to develop new cell replacement therapies for brain damage.