University of Rochester

EVENT: Name the Discipline, Neilly Series Offers Memorable Writers, Thinkers

TIME, DATE, AND PLACE: The Neilly Series lectures begin Sept. 25 at the University of Rochester

ADMISSION: All programs are free and open to the public.

September 3, 2003

The worlds of fact and fantasy will intersect when seven writers delve into their award-winning work before audiences at the Neilly Series lectures beginning Sept. 25 at the University of Rochester. All programs are free and open to the public.

John Noble Wilford, senior science writer at The New York Times and winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, will open the 2003-04 series at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25, on the topic "If It's Old, It's News." In 40 years of reporting and writing, Wilford has learned that readers want to know even more about science, medicine, and ancient cultures than about the day's crises and killings. He will speak in the Welles-Brown Room of Rush Rhees Library on the River Campus.

Wilford's coverage of the earliest missions of the U.S. space program spread his reputation worldwide and he gained preeminence on matters of science and space. His creation of the weekly science section in the Times brought science journalism center stage. He has excited people's imaginations by flying through the eye of a hurricane, exploring the depths of the oceans in submarines, and enduring wilderness survival school in search of material. He is the author of The Riddle of the Dinosaur, The Mapmakers, and The Mysterious History of Columbus, as well as the editor or co-author of other books.

Oscar Hijuelos, acclaimed 1990 Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the international bestseller The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, will present "From Anecdote to Speculation: The Small and Larger Details of Life that Inspire One's Fiction" at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, in Hubbell Auditorium. Hijuelos will recount how his tió Pedro, who played bass with Xavier Cugat in the 1930s, was the inspiration for Mambo Kings, and the ways he shaped a little-known Cuban composer into Israel Levis of his latest novel, A Simple Habana Melody. He claims inspiration from the simplest of images or imagined moments and believes other writers can develop the same gift.

The son of Cuban immigrants, Hijuelos grew up and was educated in New York City. Critics say his writing embraces themes of assimilation and identity, and love and loss with fresh, sensuous imagery and language. He has received the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Rome Prize, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ingram Merrill Foundation.

His appearance in Rochester coincides with Meliora Weekend, a cavalcade of events for University of Rochester students, parents, graduates, and friends.

As the first of two November speakers, novelist Ann-Marie MacDonald will begin the North American tour of her new book, The Way the Crow Flies, here. MacDonald, whose latest work deals with a Canadian military family threatened by the father's secret mission, will read excerpts and take questions at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 4, in Hoyt Hall.

The author of the best-selling Fall on Your Knees, MacDonald is Toronto-based and gained international attention when the novel became a 2002 Oprah Book Club choice as well as the winner of the Orange Prize and the Commonwealth Prize. Her work in the theater as an actor and playwright has attracted awards, too, and her play, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), has been performed more than 50 times. A book signing will follow the event.

By dealing in fact not fiction, David Ropeik is a writer who studies how humans interpret risks. The director of risk communication at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, Ropeik will discuss people's fears in a talk titled "Risk Perception: Why Our Fears Don't Match the Facts" at 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 13, in the Welles-Brown Room.

Ropeik believes humans subconsciously "decide," based more on emotional than factual information, either being too afraid of a lesser risk or not afraid enough of the bigger ones. He is co-author of the book Risk: A Practical Guide for Deciding What's Really Safe and What's Really Dangerous in the World Around You.

Medical histories of some of the world's best-known composers and how that affected their creativity and contributed to their deaths will be told when Dr. Robert S. Bakos offers the stories of "Dead German Composers and How They Got That Way." An associate professor of neurosurgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Bakos will lecture at 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29, in the Welles-Brown Room.

As a youth, Bakos studied at the Cleveland Music Settlement for nine years where he became proficient on violin and clarinet, and studied music theory and composition. His appreciation of music draws him to topics that blend his medical and musical knowledge. His talk will be accompanied by musical selections.

Linda Sue Park, Rochester author of A Single Shard, won the 2002 Newbery Medal, just two years after her first book was published. But her "overnight" success actually took nearly three decades to achieve. She will discuss her reading, writing, and publication journey in a talk titled "Slushpile Cinderella" at 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26, in the Welles-Brown Room. The daughter of Korean immigrants, Park has been writing poems and stories since she was four, and her favorite activity as a child was to read.

Since the acclaim for her children's story about a 12th-century Korean boy, Park has published her fourth novel, When My Name Was Keoko, in 2002, and five picture books are forthcoming. She also has published poems and short fiction for adults in journals and on-line publications.

The final Neilly speaker of this third season will blend a story of politics and art. Marc Pachter, director of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, will speak at
5 p.m. Wednesday, March 24, about how he got help and saved the famous Gilbert Stuart full-length portrait of George Washington from the auction block in 2001.

In "The Making of an American Icon: George Washington and Gilbert Stuart," Pachter will discuss how the president and the portraitist came together, why the painting spent most of its existence in Great Britain, and how a major national campaign brought it back to the United States. The lecture will be held in Hoyt Hall.

The yearlong Neilly Series is supported by a major gift from University alumnus Andrew H. Neilly and his wife, Janet Dayton Neilly. It is produced by the River Campus Libraries of the University of Rochester.

Note to editors: JPEG images of all seven speakers can be e-mailed to you. Please call (585) 275-4128 or send your request to