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UMW's Chappell Great Lives lecture series celebrates 10th anniversary
UMW's Chappell Great Lives lecture series celebrates 10th anniversary

Date published: 1/17/2013



AMODERN MONARCH whose enigmatic facade conceals an animated, hardworking professional.

A politician who worked for compromise in a bitterly divided legislature--2,000 years ago.

A religious leader alternately described as a spiritual inspiration and a licentious pirate.

Elizabeth II, Julius Caesar and Brigham Young are three of the lives that will be explored in the course of University of Mary Washington's 10th annual Chappell "Great Lives" lecture series. The popular run of free public talks brings the authors of recently published biographies of influential figures to town to speak about their subjects.

The series kicks off with Luther College classics professor Philip Freeman's talk on Julius Caesar on Thursday, Jan. 24, and concludes with "Madness and Greatness" by author Nassir Ghaemi (based on his book "A First-Rate Madness") on April 25.

In between, audiences will hear about everyone from Cleopatra to Marilyn Monroe, from Michelangelo to Winston Churchill. It's a lineup that series director and UMW professor emeritus Bill Crawley is extremely proud of.

"There are some very important figures covered and it's an interesting, diverse group of people," Crawley said. "Those who have seen the schedule have said it's maybe the best ever."


"Great Lives" began as--and still is--an academic course taught by Crawley, but its public appeal has grown so much that the talks have moved to increasingly larger venues, and are now held in UMW's 1,200-seat Dodd Auditorium.

Crawley attributes the series' success to the fact that humans are inherently interested in the lives of other people.

"Biographies are almost always among the best-selling nonfiction books," he said.

"I know that when I pick up the paper in the morning, I always like to read the obituaries," said Philip Freeman. "It sounds morbid, but I love to read about the life stories of people. I think everybody can probably relate to that. We're all living our lives, and it's fascinating to see how people lived theirs in the past."

Besides satisfying our innate curiosity about other people, biographies are an accessible way to learn about different historical eras.

"It's almost impossible to pick up a biography that doesn't shed light on the times in which the person lived," Crawley said.

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What: Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series at University of Mary Washington When: 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 24, to Thursday, April 25. Where: All lectures held at UMW's Dodd Auditorium, George Washington Hall, 1301 College Ave., Fredericksburg Info: 540/654-1065; umw.edu/greatlives