University of Rochester

EVENT: Latest Neilly Series Showcases Celebrated Authors, Lecturers

September 9, 2004

A speakers’ series dedicated to the written word will bring a Pulitzer Prize winner, a well-known author and humorist, and other writers and lecturers together for the 2004-05 Neilly Series at the University of Rochester. The first of eight programs, which are free and open to the public, will begin this month.

David Owen, author of a new biography about inventor Chester F. Carlson and his development of the process for the first Xerox machine, will open the series at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 23, in Hoyt Hall on the University’s River Campus. Owen’s new book, Copies in Seconds (Simon & Schuster), likens the phenomenal impact of the copier to Gutenberg’s printing press. Both of them dramatically altered how information was disseminated and knowledge shared.

The book—its full title is Copies in Seconds: How a Lone Inventor and an Unknown Company Created the Biggest Communication Breakthrough Since Gutenberg—Chester Carlson and the Birth of the Xerox Machines—gives a detailed account of Carlson’s work and the many Rochester angles to his creation and his later life. Owen is a staff writer at The New Yorker and a contributing editor of Golf Digest, and has written more than a dozen books. Catherine B. Carlson, who chairs the Chester and Dorris Carlson Charitable Trust, will introduce the speaker.

Winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Edward P. Jones has been hailed for his “deceivingly simple” style as he develops complex characters in his short stories and now a novel. He will focus on his award-winning first novel, The Known World (HarperCollins, 2003), when he speaks at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8, in Hubbell Auditorium of Hutchison Hall. That book’s account of a pre-Civil War black slave owner has gained much praise from writers and critics. His earlier collection of stories, Lost in the City (HarperCollins, 1992), won a PEN/Hemingway Award.

Jones, who grew up in Washington, D.C., is the recipient of a Lannan Foundation Grant and a Lannan Literary Award. The Known World also has earned the National Book Critics Circle Award. His appearance in Rochester coincides with Meliora Weekend, three days of special events for University of Rochester students, parents, alumni, faculty, and friends. Rochester City Councilman Wade Norwood, an alumnus of the College, will introduce the writer.

Humorist and writing talent Roy Blount, Jr. will offer an engaging romp on life at 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11, in Hoyt Hall. After being a columnist, sportswriter, and editor, he moved on to creating poetry, screenplays, and has written 17 books, including Robert E. Lee: Penguin Life (2003) and I Am Puppy, Hear Me Yap: The Ages of Dog (2000).

Blount contributes to many magazines, and is a regular guest on National Public Radio’s Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!, the weekly quiz show of news, opinions, clever comebacks, and laughs. He will be introduced by Myra Gelband, former senior editor of Sports Illustrated and a member of the University Board of Trustees.

Stewart Weaver, professor of history at the University of Rochester, will begin the first lecture of 2005 and consider the place of the Himalayas in British imagination at 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27, in the Welles-Brown Room of Rush Rhees Library on the River Campus. His talk, titled “Because It Was There: Mallory, Everest, and the 1920s,” is tied to Weaver’s teaching and research interests in modern British history and British imperial history.

He will illustrate the lecture with photographs from the 1920s and from his recent travels in India and Nepal. Ernestine McHugh, the author of Love and Honor in the Himalayas: Coming To Know Another Culture (2001) and associate professor of anthropology and religion in the Humanities Department at the Eastman School of Music, will introduce Weaver.

Katherine Ashenburg, a Canadian writer and author of The Mourner’s Dance: What We Do When People Die, will explore the ceremonies of modern mourning in North America when she speaks at 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24, in the Welles-Brown Room. The idea for her 2002 book grew from the sudden death of her daughter’s fiancé and how her daughter unconsciously re-created traditional rituals of mourning. Ashenburg’s research uncovered the innumerable customs and artifacts that connect with people’s basic beliefs about dying.

As a writer with a doctorate in English literature, she has authored many different pieces from articles and columns on travel and design topics to architectural tours of Southern Ontario towns, and lectures on contemporary novels. Ashenburg will be introduced by Bonnie Rubenstein, associate professor at the Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the University of Rochester.

In March, a leader in the field of cognitive engineering will describe the possibilities for making technology more responsive to the needs of people. Kim J. Vicente, author of The Human Factor: Revolutionizing the Way People Live with Technology (2003), will speak at 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 15, in the Welles-Brown Room. Vicente is professor of engineering and founding director of the Cognitive Engineering Laboratory at the University of Toronto.

Vicente’s expertise as a cognitive engineer has brought much attention to how technology can be enhanced in complex work environments rather than expecting people to adapt to complex machines. He has been invited to lecture in many countries, and was chosen by Time magazine as one of 25 Canadians expected to shape Canada’s future in the 21st century. Renato Perucchio, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Rochester, will introduce Vicente.

At 5 p.m. Thursday, March 31, Paula A. Treichler, professor of women’s studies and of medical communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will delve into the issues surrounding community and cultural responses to AIDS. Her primary areas of research cover much ground—from cultural studies of science and medicine to feminist theory and gender studies. She earned her doctorate in linguistics at the University of Rochester, and since 1972 has held faculty appointments and administrative positions in a number of programs at the University of Illinois.

She is the author and co-author of many books, including How to Have Theory in an Epidemic: Cultural Chronicles of AIDS (1999), and has published essays on feminist theory, language and gender, language and medicine, HIV/AIDS, and language and American women’s writing. Nancy Chin, assistant professor in the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, will introduce Treichler before her lecture in the Welles-Brown Room.

The final Neilly Series speaker in this fourth season will be Charles G. “Chip” Groat, director of the U.S. Geological Survey. Groat, an alumnus of the College, will describe the breadth of his agency’s contributions to the natural sciences far beyond the accomplishments of its early days of surveying the West. He will speak at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 21, in the Welles-Brown Room.

For 125 years, the USGS has been the nation’s primary source of information on geologic hazards, water, energy, mineral resources, and coastal and marine processes. Groat became its 13th director in 1998. John A. Tarduno, professor of geophysics and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Rochester, will introduce Groat.

The yearlong Neilly Series is supported by the Andrew H. Neilly and Janet Dayton Neilly Endowment, and the River Campus Libraries. For more information, contact (585) 275-4461.

Note to editors: Images in jpeg format of the eight speakers can be e-mailed to you. Please call (585) 275-4128 or send your request to