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Programs & Exhibits

Dedication of the Lavine Family Lobby in honor of the donation made by Jerrold L. Lavine to the RWU Campaign for Civic Scholars

      Lisa J. Raiola, Vice President for Institutional Advancement

Donald J. Farish, President

Jerome F. Williams, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration

Jerrod L. Lavine, Trustee, Treasurer and Executive Committee Member

Photos by: Megan Lessard, University Library/Roger Williams University

2017 Visiting Distinguished Writer – Rick Moody

by Adam Braver, Author-in-Residence and Coordinator of Literary Programming (University Libraries) Associate Professor (Creative Writing)


The fifth annual Bermont Fellowship in Fiction and Nonfiction took place over April 2-3, 2017. The program, administered through the University Library and endowed by an alumnus, brings a distinguished visiting writer to the campus community for two days–both to give a workshop to students who have been selected through a blind submissions process, and to give a public reading.

Photo: Megan Lessard/University Libraries/Roger Williams University

The 2017 Visiting Distinguished writer was Rick Moody.


Photo: Adam Braver/University Libraries/Roger Williams University

Hosted by Kathy Quinn, Moody worked with four students (Nicole Andresen ’19, Alexis den Boggende ’17, Hannah Little ’20, and Adrienne Wooster ’19), as well as alumnus Bradley Bermont. The following evening, in partnership with RWU’s Talking in the Library series, Moody gave a public reading at Rogers Free Library.

Photo: Megan Lessard/University Libraries/Roger Williams University

Photo: Megan Lessard/University Libraries/Roger Williams University


In addition to the generosity of the Bermont family, the fellowship weekend also was supported by Kathy Quinn and the Anthony Quinn Foundation, the Mary Tefft White Talking in the Library series, and Rogers Free Library’s Friends of the Library and their Jane Bodell endowment.

Photo: Megan Lessard/University Libraries/Roger Williams University

Photo: Megan Lessard/University Libraries/Roger Williams University

Photo: Megan Lessard/University Libraries/Roger Williams University


See Rick Moody’s full reading below:

Video Courtesy of RWUEDU

Manjula Padmanabhan, Talking in the Library – Video & Photos

The spring semester Talking in the Library event was held on Tuesday, March 28th at 5:00 PM in the Mary Tefft White Cultural Center.   The Library hosted a lecture by the author, comic book cartoonist and playwright, Manjula Padmanabhan. She won the 1997 Onassis Award for Theatre, for her play HARVEST. In addition to writing novels and short stories, Manjula created Suki, an Indian comic character, which was serialized as a strip in the Sunday Observer. She lives in the US.

This lecture was held in association with the School of Architecture, Art and Historic Preservation.


To read more about Manjula Padmanabhan please see:  http://rwu.libguides.com/c.php?g=619019

Please view Manjula Padmanabhan’s lecture below

Video Courtesy of RWUEDU



All photos: Megan Lessard/University Libraries/Roger Williams University

Talking In The Library: Rick Moody on April 3, 2017 Rogers Free Library 7:00 p.m.


Rick Moody is an American novelist and short story writer best known for the 1994 novel The Ice Storm, which brought him widespread acclaim, became a bestseller and was made into a feature film. Many of his works have been praised by fellow writers and critics alike, and in 1999 The New Yorker chose him as one of America’s most talented young writers,
listing him on their “20 Writers for the 21st Century” list. His most recent novel is Hotels of North America.

Monday, April 3, 2017

7:00 p.m.

Rogers Free Library 525 Hope St, Bristol, RI 02809

For more information on Rick Moody visit our LibGuide


17th annual John Howard Birss, Jr. Keynote Address

On March 1st 2017, the 17th annual John Howard Birss, Jr. Keynote Address in honor of the 50th anniversary of the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez was held. The address, entitled “Violence and History in One Hundred Years of Solitude: The Politics of Magical Realism,” was be given by Professor Maria Helena Rueda, Chair/Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Smith College. The event was held in the Mary Tefft White Cultural Center in the University Library.

Jennifer Murphy, Becky Spritz, Christine Fagan,Cheryl Stein (Rogers Free Library), Adam Braver, Professor Maria Helena Rueda, Lee Jackson, and Betsy Learned (Members of The Birss Committee not pictured: Meg Case and Ted Delaney)





Tom Shea Talks In The Library

The first spring semester Talking in the Library event was held on Wednesday, February 15 at 4:30 PM in the Mary Tefft White Cultural Center.  The Library hosted a lecture by the author and journalist, Tom Shea. Tommy Shea was a reporter for the Springfield Register for forty years, including six years covering the Boston Red Sox.  In 1991, he was among the first reporters writing about the priest sexual abuse scandal in New England.  In 2003, Shea received the New England Associated Press Award for best local New England column.  His most recent work is Dingers: The 101 Most Memorable Home Runs in Baseball History.

Please view Tom Shea’s lecture below

Video Courtesy of RWUEDU

Writer in Residence, Adam Braver introduces Tom Shea


Dean Betsy Peck Learned introduces the talk and Adam Braver

To read more about Tom, please click here

The Birss Memorial Lecture and Book Discussion Group


The 17th annual Professor John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Lecture has two upcoming signature events. As part of honoring this year’s selection, One Hundred Years of Solitude &  Gabriel García Márquez, a public discussion will be held at Rogers Free Library on February 22, 2017 (7:00 PM). The following week, on March 1, the keynote address on the book will be held in the Mary Tefft White Center in the RWU Library (4:30 PM). The lecture, “Violence and History in One Hundred Years of Solitude: The Politics of Magical Realism,” will be delivered by María Helena Rueda, Chair, Associate Professor of Spanish & Portuguese at Smith College. Concurrently, the exhibition celebrating One Hundred Years of Solitude, remains on display on the first floor of the library through March 31, 2017. For information and resources about the book, please visit https://libraryexhibits.rwu.edu/birss/2017/index.php

Talking In The Library: Tom Shea on Wednesday, February 15, 2017 4:30 pm


Tom Shea was a reporter for the Springfield Republican for forty years, including six years covering the Boston Red Sox. In 1991, he was among the first reporters writing about the priest sexual abuse scandal in New England. His work has appeared in Baseball America, New England Monthly and USA Today. In 2003, Shea received the New England Associated Press News Executive Award for best local New England column. His most recent book is Dingers: The 101 Most Memorable Home Runs in Baseball History.

Please join us:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017
4:30 p.m.
University Library
Mary Tefft White Cultural Center

For more information on Tom Shea visit our Libguide

Professor John Howard Birss Jr. Memorial Program Exhibit Opening Reception

The 17th Annual Professor John Howard Birss Jr. Memorial Program’s celebration of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude began on February 1 2017, with the opening reception for the Library Exhibition. The exhibit opening was held in the Mary Tefft White Cultural Center to celebrate the good works of Professor Christine Fagan and our two inaugural Birss Fellows (Allie Gowrie (’17) and Emily Stoeppel (’19)), while enjoying Colombian food and folklórico dance performed by members of  “Colombians in Rhode Island.”

Below are Professor Christine Fagan’s opening remarks.

Good Afternoon!

It has been my honor for the past 16 years to create exhibitions for the Annual Birss Memorial celebration of great works of literature.  One would think that I would have mastered this project by now, but the reality is that each year presents a new writer associated with a new archive and a myriad of unique circumstances.  This year was no exception.

In fact, it was especially true this year since I traveled to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin with the two Birss Fellows, Ali Gowrie and Emily Stoeppel.  These students were nominated by faculty members to have the opportunity to visit a major archive in order to research the papers of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and select artifacts to be included in the exhibition.  I must say that I had some trepidation before the trip, having never taken students on an off-campus venture.  I woke up one night from a dream in which the students and I missed our plane flight.  We finally managed to get on another flight, but then landed in a chaotic third world country.  That is when I woke up!

I am happy to say that our actual trip to Austin was nothing like that and truly a wonderful opportunity.  The Harry Ransom Center is an internationally renowned Humanities research library and museum.  We began our experience at the Center by taking a guided tour, including the Gutenberg Bible, the first photograph even taken, a Frida Kahlo self-portrait and an exhibition of Elliott Erwitt’s photographs.  We then viewed selected artifacts in the Reading Room which were of special interest to us, including:

  • an illuminated manuscript of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven as well as a hand-written verse from the poem
  • letters from Jack Kerouac to Neal Cassady and a photocopy of Jack Kerouac’s journal from which he wrote On the Road, the work we celebrated in the 2007 Birss exhibition
  • and several of Shakespeare’s plays printed in the early 1600s, including a copy of the First Folio. That was certainly a treat!

We then set to work on researching the Papers of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  Having conducted research in advance using the online Finding Aid, we were able to quickly submit our requests for specific boxes of correspondence, photographs, and manuscripts.  Browsing through all these artifacts certainly gave us an appreciation for the life and work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  The students thrived on this unique opportunity to have such a personal view into this life of this great writer.  Researching the archive turned out to be a three-person operation as one person turned the pages of artifacts, another recorded each artifact we selected, noting the box and file number as well as writing a description, and the third shot digital images of the selected artifacts.  All of this information was necessary to process the request for photoduplication from the Harry Ransom Center in order to create the exhibition here at RWU.

We selected artifacts related to the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude, including the initial pages of the manuscript.  We also chose artifacts related to the Nobel Prize for Literature which Garcia Marquez won in 1982, including manuscript pages from his speech along with photographs of the event.  We selected photographs with family and friends, including Fidel Castro and Robert Redford and correspondence with celebrities, including President Bill Clinton and Salman Rushdie.  Finally, we selected Garcia Marquez’s response to Time Magazine’s question for a 1992 feature on “Great Goals.”  The question was:  “What should humankind aim to accomplish in the coming decades?”


That was definitely going in the exhibition!

Once our research was completed, we had the opportunity to meet with Professor Gabriela Polit of the Spanish and Portuguese Department at UT Austin and a colleague of Professor Lee Jackson here at RWU.  Professor Polit played a role in the transition of the Garcia Marquez Archive to the University of Texas at Austin, meeting with the family and the Colombian government during the process.  She explained that there was some controversy regarding the selection of the Harry Ransom Center as the location for the archive as the Colombian government felt it should reside in Colombia when Garcia Marquez was born and raised.  There were rumors that the decision was make so that the family could make more money on the transaction, but in fact, the family turned over the copyright for everything in the collection to the Harry Ransom Center with the exception of the one unpublished work.  The reality was that the Center was chosen because it has the technology and expertise to preserve the collection at the highest level and make it available to the global research community through digitization.

In closing, I want to thank everyone involved in the production of this exhibition, because it was truly a team effort that transformed the work that Ali, Emily and I did in Austin into what you see today.  Liz Hanes mounted all the artifacts.  Heidi Benedict printed all the images.  Megan Lessard and Chris Truszkowski created the Birss website.  Additional exhibition items were loaned by the Redwood Library in Newport, Professor Adam Braver, Professor Paola Prada, Jackie Katz, and Natasha Perez.  Translations were provided by Professor Lee Jackson and Angelina Ferrari of the Spanish Honors Society.  Dean Betsy Learned and Professor Adam Braver offered their support though out the entire project and of course, Bob Blais provided the means to make it happen.  It is the combined efforts of all these individuals that makes the creation of this exhibition such an exciting and enriching experience!  We hope you enjoy it!

Archer Mayor: Talking in the Library Series

by Alexis den Boggende, Connections Intern


On November 2, crime novelist Archer Mayor visited Roger Williams University. In his talk, Mayor discussed his writing process, how he became a successful novelist, and what it means to be a writer, as well as how we answer the question: what is writing all about?


Mayor is the author of the acclaimed Joe Gunther detective series, a police procedural series set in Vermont. Tag Man, the 22nd book in the Gunther series earned a spot on the New York Times bestseller list in 2011. Mayor, an enthusiastic and lighthearted man, began his talk describing how he began writing murder mysteries and detective novels. He started out as a professional historian, and explained that if anybody wants to create, to pursue a career in art, such as writing, they must work hard for it, even if it means taking on multiple jobs. Mayor explained that the reason he began to write is that he was interested in asking the question, “Why do we do what we do?” and in the sociological and anthropological aspects of humanity. He delved into why we as humans enjoy reading about murder, about mysteries, about darker material. “There’s no explanation on why we love them,” Mayor says. “It’s everywhere–newspapers, on TV. It’s all around us. It’s our reality. It reflects our instinctual impulse from birth to be aggressive to one another.” In addition, Mayor explained that because of the law, we suppress these desires and are forced into good behavior. He is fascinated by the instinctual inclination for humans to be aggressive, and further investigates these aspects of humanity through writing crime novels.

Mayor then began explaining his writing process, beginning with the question every writer has asked themselves: What is writing all about? “Writing,” Major says, “is practice, practice, practice. It’s a flat, rocky road of incompetence. Writing your first book is like your first bike ride. You have to keep practicing in order to master it. Writing is a learning curve.” Mayor spoke about how being an overnight success is not always a good thing. “You can damn yourself that way,” he says. “Being a one-hit wonder…you restrain your one, true inner voice.” He explained that failure can be rewarding–but a writer must keep at it if they fail.


Mayor discussed the process of researching for his crime novels, including being able to create a good, solid relationship with local police departments. He stressed that it is necessary for him to be embraced by the law enforcement community, and to build a strong trust between himself and the law.


To close out his talk, Mayor spoke of his views on fiction, and how creating good fiction allows the reader to lose themselves in the pages. Writing eloquently enough that you and your reader disappear into the story is Mayor’s advice for aspiring fiction writers. “Don’t write for the money,” Mayor says. “Bring us back to us with your story. Be engaged in storytelling. Let your reader lose themselves in a fictional daydream–that’s good storytelling.” He also addressed how writers must understand their sense of place while they write–and how he finds his. Mayor explained how he moved around a lot as a child, having lived all over, never staying in one place more than four years. Because of this, he found that his nomadic upbringing allowed him to be sensitive to people and places. “When you write, write with cadence. Write with sound, with eloquence. It will enhance the character and the culture that you’re filling your reader’s head with.”