Announcing 2013 spring speakers

Dear Whitman Parents and Alumni,

Each spring at Whitman brings engagement and enthusiasm generated by the wide array of events and activities, including lectures presented by distinguished scholars, activists, authors and professionals from a wide range of disciplines and perspectives. Though it is unlikely that many of you will be able to attend the events we have planned in the weeks ahead, I write hoping that you’ll appreciate knowing about speakers coming to campus between now and Commencement. Here are some highlights:

Rigoberta Menchú Tum – Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, Ms. Menchú Tum will deliver the keynote address for the student-organized Symposium on Race and Ethnicity, March 27. A Guatemalan indigenous k’iche’ woman who has fought passionately for justice and defended victims of discrimination and racism both in her home country and around the world, she will discuss race and ethnic relations, gender studies, social change, and human rights. 

Terry Tang – In addition to being a Whitman parent, Ms. Tang is the deputy editor of The New York Times editorial page. She is the 2013 Hosokawa Journalism Lecturer and on March 28 will address “Poor Richard's iPad: The Return of American Journalism to its Roots.” Her talk will expose how blogging, tweeting and using Facebook fit into our press traditions – and also changes them. She also will lead a workshop for our Whitman Pioneer staff writers and editors.

Gail Collins – An American journalist, op-ed columnist and author, Ms. Collins was the first woman appointed editor of The New York Times editorial page. She offers a unique perspective on politics and feminism in the 21st century.  Her April 10 address will consider how political, social, and economic issues affect women in the U.S. and around the world, and will tackle the question, "Is There a Glass Ceiling in American Politics Today?" 

Eric Asimov – The New York Times chief wine critic and author of “The Pour” and “Wines of the Times,” Mr. Asimov will engage with the campus community and Walla Walla residents about the local wine terroir and deliver an address on April 11 titled “How to Love Wine.” Following themes from his recently published book, Asimov will highlight the difference between drinking and tasting wine and will examine how hot pockets of wine fascination, including Walla Walla, impact local and distant wine culture.

Bill McKibben – An author, educator and environmentalist with expertise in climate change, Mr. McKibben has written a dozen books and is the founder of, an international climate change organization. He is a frequent contributor to various publications, including The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Orion Magazine, Mother Jones, The New York Review of Books, Granta, Rolling Stone, and Outside. In addition to a plenary session with first-year Encounters students, he will deliver a public address on climate change on April 29.

Finally, I am honored to announce that our 2013 Commencement speaker is a Whitman parent – Eric Idle, writer, playwright and former Monty Python player. He will receive an honorary degree along with Whitman alumnus, composer and distinguished USC Professor of Music Morten Lauridsen ’65.  I congratulate those of you who are parents of seniors on the accomplishments of your sons and daughters and look forward to seeing you and your family members at Commencement on May 19.

In addition to lectures and speakers, there are many other exciting activities for students. Here are some resources you might like to bookmark, to help you keep pace with the activities and opportunities available to them:

Student Engagement Center – From social media workshops to participating in community service activities, the SEC provides opportunities that nurture and grow students’ interest and skills. Many are posted on the SEC calendar.

Harper Joy Theatre – Spring productions include The Tempest, My Chernobyl and Floyd Collins. Theater at Whitman is not just for majors, and many students appear in or work behind the scenes on productions, and many others attend.

Music – There are multiple music performances in any given week, and, like Whitman theater, majors from a variety of disciplines take part.

Athletics – More than half of all Whitties participate in varsity athletics, club sports or intramurals, and many others are engaged fans.

I encourage you to take frequent looks at our Event Listings, and know that Whitman students are creating their own events and activities in addition to taking advantage of what the college brings to them. You are also encouraged to join the Whitman Facebook page, where you’ll see news updates and posts by and about students, staff, faculty and alumni.

And to all of our local alumni, we hope to see you on campus in the very near future at these and other events you choose to attend.



George Bridges