Whitman offers diverse array of public events

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From lectures by hard-hitting journalists and leading scholars to a wide range of cultural and performing arts events, Whitman College annually hosts hundreds of free public events that appeal to varied interests. Perhaps you attended some of these major events.

This fall, while the nation debated who would become the next president of the United States, Whitman hosted two important political commentators as part of a special speaker series. David Brooks, a columnist for The New York Times, and Ray Suarez, a senior correspondent for The NewsHour on PBS, visited Walla Walla in October to discuss their views on the election and today’s political landscape, representing different points on the political spectrum. Both lectures were well-attended by campus and community members, and each was followed by a Q&A and book-signing session.

Isabel Wilkerson, author of “The Warmth of Other Suns,” was among a number of important scholars to come to town. Her award-winning book on the Great Migration was the subject of the Whitman and Walla Walla Reads program. The author is the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for journalism.

While Wilkerson’s narrative guided audience members from the cruelties of the Jim Crowe past to the ongoing struggle for equality today, Charles Simonyi blasted the audience into the future with his account of being one of the first private citizens in space. Simonyi, a former Microsoft engineer, shared details of his two trips to the International Space Station aboard the Soyuz spacecraft.

In addition to the array of lectures designed to inform and stimulate intellectual curiosity, Whitman also offers events to delight the senses — musical performances, theater productions, art exhibitions, film screenings and more, as well as home games between the college’s 14 men’s and women’s varsity athletic teams and challengers from across the region.

This ongoing variety of events complements the Walla Walla community’s arts and culture scene and fuels conversations inside and outside the walls of Whitman’s academic buildings. In a given week, Whitman might host a concerto aria competition and a lecture series on water conservation, or talks on Mesoamerican cave archeology and women’s leadership.

On Monday, Whitman welcomes acclaimed China expert Orville Schell, author of 14 books and director of the Center for U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York. He will discuss “The Impact of Global Environmental Challenges on U.S.-China Relations” at 7:30 in Whitman’s Maxey Auditorium.

Two of Whitman’s most beloved and time-honored institutions are Harper Joy Theatre and the Visiting Writers Reading Series. Each has a storied history and a devoted community following. Harper Joy produces a remarkable eight productions per season, sampling from the classics as well as musical comedy and contemporary drama. Season passes are affordable, and most shows are family-friendly.

The Visiting Writers Reading Series is organized by Katrina Roberts, an award-winning poet and Whitman professor of English who brings nationally renowned writers such as Tim O’Brien, Sherman Alexie and Junot Diaz to campus every year. Next up this season is local novelist Johanna Stoberock in January.

This past year, the college expanded its efforts to bring noted public speakers to campus for the benefit of not just Whitman students, but the greater Walla Walla community. So whether you’re a politics junkie, a music lover or a theater buff, Whitman invites you to take advantage of a calendar of diverse and entertaining events.

Fall semester may be coming to a close, but new events are added to the calendar all the time. For more information, visit whitman.edu and click on Coming Events.

Gillian Frew is Whitman’s media relations officer and coordinates public information and outreach for campus events.

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