2010-2011 Convocation: The Persistence of Memory

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


About the 2010-2011 Theme

For a child growing up in the late 1960s in Aiken, South Carolina, the summers were hot, hazy, and very boring. Air conditioning was still something of a novelty, and there were only two television stations, which presented a meagre fare of decidedly un-kid-friendly shows. (I tried watching The Edge of Night one afternoon with our maid, Eunice Johnson, as she did the ironing. I eventually abandoned the soap opera to watch Eunice iron, a spectacle I found infinitely more interesting and understandable.) Video games were still more than a decade in the offing, and a swimming pool was something that only the glamorously wealthy possessed. My mother had a number of quaint activities that might keep the boredom at bay for a short time. (When was the last time a child was provided a dish of soapy water and a wooden thread bobbin to blow bubbles?) Eventually, though, with such ploys exhausted, my mother would point to the door and say, "Why don't you go outside and play?", although the tone indicated that she was issuing a command, not making a suggestion.

Thus banished into the heavy heat of the day (I can still conjure up the oppressive smell of hot, dry pine trees), I would take a turn through the neighborhood seeking friends who had received similar injunctions from their moms. There were usually at least two or three children about, and we would band together to find something to do. Occasionally we collected enough kids for a game of baseball, although we usually had to rely on "imaginary" runners to fill out our teams. More likely, we went to the woods beyond Tommy Burch's house to construct a fort, or caught tadpoles in a tepid drainage stream that ran down the side of a dirt road on the edge of the neighborhood. There were stables nearby, too, and if anyone could sneak a carrot or two out of their Frigidaire, we would go feed a horse in one of the paddocks before being chased off by a groom. If we were feeling particularly adventurous, though, we would hop on our bikes and strike out into the town looking for adventure. It was on one of these forays that we saw the Yankee graves for the first time.

That afternoon, three of us took our bikes up Coker Springs Road past Easy Street and continued on Whiskey Road. Just past South Boundary, Whiskey Road turned into Chesterfield Street, and we rode five more blocks to the First Baptist Church. There, on the east side of the church, we found the graves we had so often heard about but never seen before that moment. We parked our bikes and walked among the headstones of men who had been killed in a Civil War skirmish a century earlier.

There were perhaps two dozen graves, and although a few of the headstones bore names ("Corp. James T. Wingard, Mathewe's Co., C.S.A."), most were simply marked "U.S. Soldier." These, we told each other in hushed voices, were the Yankees. And as we walked carefully through those gravestones, we knew in an odd way that our world was still haunted by the same conflict that had brought these men to our town, and killed them, on a February day in 1865. It was certainly not a deep understanding, but we understood nevertheless that there was a connection between those headstones and what was going on in our community in 1968.

There was a connection between those headstones and Eunice Johnson, the black woman who was back at my home ironing my father's shirts and watching The Edge of Night on the television set.

There was a connection between those headstones and Wesley Jones, our black "yardman" who cut the grass and always treated me, an eight-year-old white boy, with a deference so pronounced that it made me uncomfortable. (What other adult addressed me, with such utter seriousness, as "Sir" or "Mister"?)

There was a lot of talk in those days about "integration," and we knew there was a connection between those headstones and the fact that we would soon have "colored" schoolmates. (And although we did integrate two years later, white and black students continued to be segregated by classroom.)

There was a connection between those headstones and Martin Luther King, and what had happened to him in April of that same year. (I had actually seen King speak several years earlier. On that April morning, I remember asking my parents what the word "assassinate" meant.)

There was a connection between those headstones and the "Stars and Bars" that flew over the courthouse.

There was a connection between them and the entrance to Richardson's Lake, a local swimming hole, which displayed a sign reading "Private Club" next to a framed color photograph of Alabama's governor, George Wallace.

There was a connection between those headstones and the anonymous hate mail my parents received for their involvement in a civil rights group called the Human Relations Council.

The connections to those headstones were all around us, and while we couldn't completely comprehend it all, we knew enough to understand that we were living among the consequences of the past.

We are all living with the consequences of the past. We are haunted by history and memory, and often nagged by a strange feeling that past events are somehow never really "over." Even though they are creatures of the past, history and memory cling to us in the present. At best, the past makes us feel warm and nostalgic; at worst, it makes us feel uncertain and uncomfortable - at times even afraid. But to live in the present, and to plan for the future, we must realize that we are all citizens of a persistent past. It defines who we are today, and although the past is a hard thing to really know, we must seek to understand it.

William Garvin,
Special Collections Librarian and University Archivist
Theme Year Director
2010-2011


Kiley Hill
Planting Connections Outside the Digital Space

August 22, 2010

Incoming college students have basically grown up digital, in a world where the ease of electronic communication is fast replacing face-to-face communication. Reflecting upon her time at Drury, Kiley Hill hopes to encourage students to take the opportunity to make connections with their professors and develop their communication skills and networks face-to-face and unplugged.

Hill grew up in the heart of the Ozarks in the Highlandville/Spokane area, between Springfield and Branson, Mo. At Drury, she pursued her interest in the behavioral sciences, majoring in psychology. After graduating in 2002, she became involved in brain imaging (fMRI) research at the University of Florida, Gainesville and the Brain Rehabilitation Research Center. She was recently hired by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as the clinical study coordinator of a neurogenetics lab at the University of California San Diego.


Lucette Lagnado
Exile, Loss and Memory:  An immigrant child examines her family's journey from Cairo to New York

September 2, 2010

Lucette Lagnado was born in Cairo to an Egyptian-Jewish family. Forced to flee as refugees in the 1960s, her experiences shaped her memoir, The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit. She hearkens back to the Old Cairo that was wonderfully tolerant and multicultural, where Jews, Christians and Muslims co-existed in ways most Americans might find hard to imagine.

Ms. Lagnado will address this and other themes that guided her as she worked on her memoir, in which she challenges prevailing notions about immigrants coming to America and reaching for the American Dream.


Ramson Lomatewama
Hopi Art, Ritual and Song: Vehicles of Cultural Memory

September 9, 2010

Ramson Lomatewama is a Hopi artist, poet and teacher who lives in Arizona. A successful jeweler, self-taught glass blower, stained glass artist, poet and traditional style Katsina doll carver, Lomatewama is currently creating an assortment of jewelry depicting the split twig animals found in the caves of the Grand Canyon and petroglyph/pictograph figures of significance to the Hopi people. He uses traditional materials and techniques, from obsidian tools to natural pigments as paint. His books of poetry include Silent Winds, Poetry of One Hopi , Ascending the Reed and Drifting Through Ancestor Dreams.


Paul Stillwell
The Golden Thirteen - A Family Connection

September 23, 2010

Paul Stillwell, class of 1966, grew up on and near the Drury campus. During that time, he and his brother Mark absorbed values and inspiration from their father Carl, who was part of the college's administration for 25 years. In particular their dad, who was also a minister, preached and practiced the tenets of racial tolerance and understanding.

In 1944 the U.S. Navy commissioned the first black officers in its history—pioneers who came to be known as the Golden Thirteen. In the 1980s, drawing on his dad's example, Stillwell did oral history interviews with the eight members of the original 13 who were still living. He compiled their stories into the book The Golden Thirteen: Recollections of the First Black Naval Officer, which preserves a significant slice of history that would otherwise have been lost.


Tres Vidas
A Musical Drama on the Lives of Three Hispanic Women

September 30, 2010

Tres Vidas is a chamber music and theatre production presented by international touring group the Core Ensemble, which is comprised of an actress, a pianist, a cellist and a percussionist. The original performance is based on the lives of three famous Latin American women: Frida Kahlo, Rufina Amaya, and Alfonsina Storni.


Ron Showers
The History of Hope

October 14, 2010

Ron Showers serves as a U.S. Outreach Director for Convoy of Hope, an international relief organization headquartered in Springfield. Convoy of Hope has a driving passion to feed the world through children's feeding programs, domestic outreaches, disaster response, and partner resourcing.

Convoy's founder, Hal Donaldson, grew up in a home that experienced the effects of poverty first hand. As an adult, Hal felt the call to bring hope to the broken and suffering around the world. Small in its beginnings, Convoy of Hope has grown to serve over thirty five million people in more than 100 countries. The organization has learned lessons from the past that will empower it to touch even more in the future. Come and find out what inspired this organization to be one of the leaders in compassion ministry around the world and what keeps it focused on the future.


Al Staggs
A View from the Underside: The Legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

October 28, 2010

In this one-person play, minister and actor Al Staggs portrays German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose involvement in the 1944 plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler led to his imprisonment and execution. Set in a prison sell, Staggs presents the last hours of Bonhoeffer’s life, as he defends what he saw as his Christian obligation to directly confront the evils of Nazism, even if it involved complicity in a violent act of resistance.

Staggs, now a fulltime performing artist, holds Master of Theology from Harvard Divinity School and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.


Juan Cole
Contemporary Conflict and Colonial Memory in the Middle East

November 4, 2010

American rhetoric about the Middle East revolves around the 'war on terror,' alleged Muslim fanaticism, and comparisons of modern Muslim movements to Nazism. But in the Middle East itself, local observers see the past decade as a revival of Western colonialism, evoking bad memories of the French in Algeria and the British in Iraq and the Indian subcontinent. American amnesia about the colonial period in the Middle East (1798-1971) and vivid regional memories of subjugation and humiliation help to explain why the wars are perceived so differently on each side if the Atlantic.

Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He has appeared on PBS’s Lehrer News Hour, the Today Show, Anderson Cooper 360, and the Colbert Report. His most recent book is Engaging the Muslim World.


Mark Noah
The Lost Graves of Tarawa

November 11, 2010

Mark Noah, UPS pilot, vintage aircraft owner and aviation historian, is the Executive Director of a non-profit organization called History Flight. After painstaking archival research and on-the-ground archeological work, Noah and History Flight made news in summer 2008 by discovering the bodies of scores of American Marines killed at Tarawa Atoll in 1943.

Although these Marines had been initially been given a proper burial in marked graves, they were later "lost" and forgotten by the Marine Corps and the U.S. Government. Recently, the Pentagon acknowledged the validity of History Flight's research, and has started the process of recovering the remains of these lost Marines. Some have described this discovery as the largest recovery of American MIAs from any war. Noah holds a BA with honors in History from Emory University.


Benjamin June
Iraq Suicide Attack Pillow Project: A Memorial

December 3, 2010

Benjamin June is making a pillow for every suicide attack in Iraq since the U.S. invasion on March 20, 2003. The exhibit draws attention to more than 1,600 separate attacks.


Lt.Col. Robert E. Lucius
Kairos Moments: A New Vision for a More Humane World

February 10, 2011

There is an old African proverb in the Ewe language, "Akpa le tome gake menya tsi fe vevie nyenyeo," which can be roughly translated "A fish is the last to acknowledge the existence of water."

Our memories and traditions serve as the normative prism through which we make sense of the world around us; however, they can also reinforce ethical blind spots that prevent us from seeing things as they really are and they can often discourage us from questioning injustices in plain sight. We are occasionally exposed to evidence that contradicts our rationalized worldview and forces us to cope with a new reality that challenges our deeply cherished beliefs. These moments are truly gifts for they can jar the senses, creating "catalytic experiences" that demand a re-evaluation and a re-casting of our fondest and most formative memories and traditions. Moments such as these are rare opportunities for stimulating personal renewal and growth. They are what the ancient Greeks would call "kairos" opportunities.

On a lonely road in northern Vietnam in the summer of 2006, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lucius had one of those rare perspective-altering "kairos moments"...a moment that shattered his faith in the cherished memories and traditions of his typical, middle-class American upbringing. This event transformed him into an animal rights advocate committed to opening minds to the possibility that there are indeed better ways to improve public health and foster environmental sustainability, while simultaneously promoting a culture of compassion towards the non-human animals that share our world with us.  

LtCol Lucius was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1989 and has since served 22 years on active duty in a wide variety of command, staff and diplomatic assignments. He is now assigned as the Assistant Provost, Dean of Educational Support Services and Dean of Students for the Directorate of Continuing Education at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, CA.

In 2009, LtCol Lucius founded the Kairos Coalition, a non-profit charity that pilots experimental humane education initiatives in developing countries. He expects to retire on May 1, 2011, and plans to devote a great deal more time to animal rights advocacy.


Frederick Lane
The History of Privacy in America

February 17, 2011

Frederick Lane is an attorney and author who has written five books on technology and privacy. His most recent is American Privacy: The Four-Hundred-Year History of our Most Contested Right.


Jorge Otero-Pailos
Living with Pollution

February 24, 2011

The history of our modern civilization is defined by pollution. We would not be who we are if our ancestors had not produced unthinkable quantities of it. Our collective hope is to one day break with this historic tradition and stop making pollution, but what to do about what has already been created? Is it possible to think differently about pollution and our cultural relationship to it?

Jorge Otero-Pailos engages these questions through the mediums of art and architecture. His installations peel away the layers of pollution deposited on historic monuments, turning them into a record to be preserved and inviting us to consider them as part of modernity’s heritage. Otero-Pailos is an architect, artist and theorist specializing in experimental forms of preservation. He is Assistant Professor of Historic Preservation at Columbia University.


Temple Grandin
A Memoir of My Life With Animals and Autism

March 3, 2010

Dr. Temple Grandin has been called “the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world.” Her autism has given her a unique perspective into the lives of stock animals, and half of the cattle in the U.S. are handled in facilities designed by Grandin. She has authored six books, and her life is the subject of a recent HBO film and a BBC documentary, "The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow." She will provide insight into her life’s challenges and successes, and provide insight into what the New York Times calls “a mind that’s ‘different but not less.’”

Upon meeting Dr. Temple Grandin, she identifies herself as a college professor and a scientist. Her accomplishments include a various number of written books, but her biggest was creating a new system for cattle before they are slaughtered. This system has now become adapted for over half of the cattle in the United States.  One might not guess that she is also autistic.

Drury University presented her as a convocation speaker on March 3. Audience members ranged from Drury students, staff, and faculty in addition to members of the surrounding community.

“Dr. Grandin is a teacher, an author, an entrepreneur, and an inspiration,” President Todd Parnell said as he introduced her.

Grandin was well received by the 2,500 audience members that strongly applauded her presentation on various topics. She expressed her thoughts on how she deals with autism, her accomplishments, and the four types of minds. However, she also stated her concerns with today’s education and the lack of science teachers in high schools and hands-on classes.

To create success, Grandin believes visual, pattern, verbal, and auditory thinkers must collaborate. “The world needs different types of minds to work together,” Grandin said. 

While Grandin was at Drury, she also brought along hundreds of copies of one of her newest books, Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism. 


Rick Ayre
Predicting the Past

March 10, 2011

Alumnus and co-founder of Amazon.com Rick Ayre shares this quote from Newsweek magazine in 1995: “Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic. Baloney. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.”

A year after this was written, Ayre left a successful job at PC Magazine, to help start that online bookstore in Seattle. His mother told him he was crazy. (Perhaps she read Newsweek?) Today, with Newsweek itself about to disappear, how do we remember those days? And, with our heads and all computing about to enter the clouds, where are our books, where is our music, where are our photos, our memories?


Jamaica Kincaid
Landscapes and Memory

March 31, 2011

The place we are from is often tied up and encoded in our memory...landscapes are complicated, evoking emotions of longing, loss and love. Our connection to ancestors and sense of place is ancient and often lost as history shifts us from place to place. In this lecture, Ms. Kincaid will read from "A Small Place" and "My Brother" and engage in discussion of the importance of our own personal landscapes, history and cultural identity.

Jamaica Kincaid is a highly regarded writer and teacher who was raised in Antigua. Known for her candid and emotionally honest writing, in 1976 her work attracted the attention of William Shawn, former editor of The New Yorker, where she became a staff writer and featured columnist for nine years. Kincaid is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and is currently a professor of literature at Claremont McKenna College.


Ric Burns
America, Whaling and the World: A Parable of Industry and the Environment

March 31, 2011

Ric Burns is a noted PBS documentary filmmaker and writer who began his career working with his brother Ken as co-producer of the landmark PBS documentary The Civil War. Burns is best known for his Emmy Awardwinning eight-part PBS series, New York: A Documentary Film.

His latest documentary, Into the Deep: America, Whaling and the World, was released May 2010. The talk will tell the riveting, dreamlike and extraordinarily rich story of the American whaling industry, from its 17th century origins in driftand shore-whaling off the coast of New England and Cape Cod, down through the great golden age of deep-ocean whaling in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and on to the industry's spectacular demise in the decades following the American Civil War.


Theme Day

April 14, 2011

War and Remembrance: Randall Fuller Discusses From Battlefields Rising

Drury University was founded in the aftermath of the deadliest conflict in American history. Associate Professor Randy Fuller will discuss how the university's relationship to postwar Springfield inspired his new book from Oxford University Press. 

Ric Burns: "From These Honored Dead"-- Reflections on Memory, Narrative, Identity and the Civil War

Ric Burns is a noted PBS documentary filmmaker and writer who began his career working with his brother Ken as a co-producer of the landmark PBS documentary The Civil War.  Burns is best known for his Emmy Award-winning eight-part PBS series, New York: A Documentary Film.

He is currently working on a two-hour film for national broadcast on PBS in 2012 on the transforming impact of the staggering death toll of the Civil War – and the enduring legacy of that trauma on the nation, the government, and  the  psyche of the American people.    Using a number of films as points of reference and departure -- including his current project, The Civil War, and his recent film on American whaling --  the talk will consider how the war shaped, and continues to shape, American memory, imagination, narrative and identity.  He will be showing scenes from his current work in progress. 

Dr. Monty Dobson and Students
Archeology Live!--The Civil War Trench Line Excavation

In 1878, the first president of Drury College, Nathan Morrison, wrote that "the first College edifice was reared within the embankments thrown up by Union troops."  He was referring to the Burnham Circle Civil War trench line, the vestiges of which can still be seen today.  Throughout the day, Dr. Monty Dobson, Visiting Assistant Professor of History, and his students will be conducting an archeological excavation of that trench line.  At 2:00, they will make a presentation on Springfield in the Civil War, the trench line site, and their initial findings.

Drew Emery: Inlaws and Outlaws

Seattle filmmaker Drew Emery will introduce his documentary, Inlaws and Outlaws, before screening the Missouri premiere of this remarkable film.  The film presents a narrative from a number of couples—both gay and straight—on the nature of marriage and relationships.  Inlaws and Outlaws asks viewers to look beyond the current rhetoric regarding gay marriage, and challenges them to think about marriage not as a legal, social, or religious construct, but as a commitment between two people who love each other.


Radio Flyer
Music and Memories

April 28, 2011

Bluegrass band Radio Flyer was formed in 1985 and has played together for two decades in several iterations. The band originally consisted of longtime friends David Wilson, Roger Matthews and Dudley Murphy, who is director of Drury's visual communication program and associate professor of art.

These three, along with Irl Hees, will present a program of music related to memory and will interweave stories of the band's formation and life touring on the road. This toe-tapping performance brings the theme year to a memorable close.