War & Remembrance series focuses on events that shaped our history

Dwight D. Eisenhower once said that “history does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.” While we can’t rewrite history, we can celebrate its victories, its causalities and learn from the events of those before us. 

Beginning this January, Norfolk Collegiate is doing just that as it presents the Betty M. & William B. Jones Humanities Speaker Series: War & Remembrance, a trio of presentations inspired by several historical anniversaries occurring this year. Among the events are the conclusion of the Civil War sesquicentennial, the anniversary of the shot that started World War I, and the 50th anniversary of the ramp up of American involvement in Vietnam and the heyday of the civil rights movement.

In the aftermath of such dire struggles, survivors were left to try to resume normal lives, rebuild from the devastation and to find meaning in the face of overwhelming loss. These efforts produced tangible memorials — from obelisks to images to literature — that have woven war and remembrance into the fabric of our society. 

Thanks to the efforts of Collegiate’s history department chair Paige Solomon, English teacher Judy Davis and art teacher Jennifer Schero and the support of the Joneses, these efforts will be commemorated through a series of lectures in January, February and April. 

Last year, Solomon organized three Civil War programs featuring local authors. In attendance were Betty and William Jones, who found an opportunity for the school to play a role in educating the larger community. “We want to see such programming continue and expand.” As a result, they, along with the help of Solomon, Davis and Schero, created the Jones Humanities Speaker Series. 
 
“The humanities have been an important part of our lives. As a teacher of English and history, I always strove to go beyond historical facts or the close analysis of a literary text to a broader understanding of human nature,” said Betty Jones, who taught the humanities at Norfolk Collegiate. 
 
The Jones' contribution is given in memory of Louise M. Vermillion, who launched the Norfolk Collegiate humanities class in the 1960s and continued to teach until the early 1980s. “It was a privilege and quite a challenge to follow in her footsteps when she retired,” said Jones. “My six years teaching the humanities class was relatively brief, but its impact upon me is measureless.” 
 
Vermillion once described the study of the humanities as a vast smorgasbord with numerous goals. “Among them are a greater knowledge of and appreciation for the complexity of human experience and for the importance of the connections between past and present,” said Jones. “We hope this series will contribute to the realization of these ends.”

Davis and Solomon agree. “We hope the series will move audiences to see the intersections of history, politics, art, literature and life,” said Davis. “Each of our speakers will offer a different perspective on how historic events affect the production of art and how the work that results helps to define us individually and collectively.”

War & Remembrance presentations are free and open to the public, and will be held on Friday evenings at 7 p.m. in the Hackney Theater of the Meredith Center for the Arts, 7336 Granby Street.  

“From its very inception, the Meredith Center for the Arts was built to enrich the life of the larger community, not just our school,” said Solomon. “Using our wonderful new facility to host presentations by notable scholars and scholars is a natural step in the evolution of the school. It’s our goal to make a valuable contribution to the intellectual and cultural life of our region.”

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The following is a listing of the scholars and their lectures:
  • Friday, Jan. 9, 2015 | Visualizing Conflict: Art in the First World War by Dr. Linda F. McGreevy: From Dada satire to the critical realism of Otto Dix, German art created in response to the First World War has played a pivotal role in shaping modern art movements. This lecture will explore the impact of this work on the movements that followed between the two great wars of the 20th Century. 
  • Friday, Feb. 20, 2015 | Legacies of Appomattox:  Lee’s Surrender in History and Memory by Dr. Elizabeth R. Varon: Dispelling the myth that the Appomattox surrender was a “gentleman’s agreement” between Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant that reunited the South and North, Elizabeth Varon argues that the surrender terms were controversial from the start and became the touchstone for the conflicts during Reconstruction.
  • Friday, April 17, 2015 | War is War, Sport is Not: A Reading by Dr. Philip Raisor: In celebration of National Poetry Month, the lecture series will conclude with Dr. Philip Raisor reading his poems about sports and war, separating the two into their proper categories, reminding us that sports are games, and war is what we see in the Civil War photographs of Alexander Gardner and Matthew Brady.
In addition to the lectures, the series also will feature a complementary art exhibit from Feb. 20 to April 24 entitled, Images of the Civil War, in the Gallery at the Meredith Center for the Arts. The exhibit will chronicle the power and poignancy of war and its aftermath. 

For more information about the Jones Humanities Speaker Series and the featured authors, please click here
  
War & Remembrance presentations are free and open to the public, and will be held on Friday evenings at 7 p.m. in the Hackney Theater of the Meredith Center for the Arts, 7336 Granby Street.