Popular Great Lives Lecture Series Marks 20th Season

Tech pioneer Gladys West is the subject of the Great Lives conference on February 2, 2023.

Anne Frank, Bruce Springsteen and Virginia-born tech pioneer Gladys West are among the intriguing personalities featured on the 20th anniversary of the William B. Crawley Great Lives Lecture Series at the University of Mary Washington.

The popular biography series will be held Tuesdays and Thursdays, January 19 through March 28, 2023, at Dodd Auditorium at George Washington Hall. All lectures are free and start at 7:30 p.m.

The Gladys West lecture, scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, will be of particular interest to the Fredericksburg area, said series director and namesake William Crawley, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History.

“A true ‘hidden figure’, Dr. West had a remarkable career that took her from a poor tobacco farm in southern Virginia to become a mathematician whose work in the 1940s and 1950s contributed significantly to the development of GPS,” Crawley said.

West, a resident of Dahlgren in King George County, was a mathematician at what is now the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division. Speaker Karen Sherry will be joined on stage by a panel including West’s daughter, Carolyn West Oglesby ’83, a Mary Washington alum. (The story continues under the gallery.)

The 2023 series continues the Great Lives tradition of featuring an eclectic mix of personalities from many eras and geographic locations. Besides West, Frank and Springsteen, the next topics are Alan Turing, Shirley Jackson, Thomas Paine, civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, Ted Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover, Rembrandt, Magellan, Sandra Day O’Connor, Transcendentalists, Lafayette, Queen Isabelle and Colin Powell.

President Paino and Dr. Crawley
UMW President Troy D. Paino and Emeritus Professor of History William B. Crawley discuss the Great Lives Lecture Series. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

The more than 300 lectures over the past 19 years have focused not only on specific individuals, but also on notable groups and fictional characters. A non-human subject, the Great Virginia Racehorse Secretariat, was among the most popular presentations in the show’s history, Crawley said — and also his favorite.

All 2023 lectures will be recorded and made available on the program website following the live presentation. But attending Dodd has the benefit of a Q&A audience with guest speakers. Speaker books will also be available for purchase and signing.

Angela C. Hale