Spring 2019 Lecture Series


All lectures are from 1:30-2:30 PM and will be held in the Spring Valley Building, 4801 Massachusetts Ave. NW, in Room A on the First Floor.


Due to limited seating, reservations through Eventbrite are required to attend lectures. 

  • Member Reservations: We e-mail the registration link to current members at 8:30 AM on the Tuesday preceding the next week’s lecture. 
  • Non-Member Reservations: We e-mail the registration link to non-members at 8:30 AM on the Wednesday preceding the next week’s lecture. The registration link is also placed at that time on the website (below).

Each registrant may reserve one seat. Your name must be on the list of registrants to enter the lecture and you must be in your seat five minutes before the lecture starts to guarantee your seat. 


March 8—Joseph Esposito

Dinner of Genius

On a warm night in April 1962, Nobel Prize Laureate Linus Pauling put down his picket sign against nuclear testing and mingled with 48 of his fellow Nobel Prize winners and other distinguished Americans at the White House dinner of the century. He joined astronaut John Glenn, who had recently orbited the earth; Robert Frost, first inaugural poet; Ralph Bunche, diplomat extraordinaire; authors James Baldwin, Pearl Buck and William Styron; Manhattan Project scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer; and many others. Pauling was gently chided by President Kennedy for having “been around the White House already” and yet he was “urged to continue to express your feelings.” Joe Esposito will explore the guests, their relationships, and the role of the White House as a center for artistic and intellectual achievement at the height of Camelot.

Joseph Esposito is a historian, writer and educator who served in three presidential administrations, most recently as deputy undersecretary for international affairs in the Department of Education.  He holds degrees from Pennsylvania State, George Mason, Georgetown, and the Universities of Pennsylvania and Virginia. He is the author of Dinner in Camelot: The Night America’s Greatest Scientists, Writers and Scholars Partied at the Kennedy White House. 

REGISTER: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/olli-at-au-dinner-of-genius-tickets-56641798143

March 15—Jeremy Brown

Influenza and Emergency Medicine

An estimated 16 million people died in World War I. Then, as the war was ending, came the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918. It killed an estimated 50 million. The flu affected over 25 percent of the U.S. population. Young adults were among the hardest hit groups. Scientists, doctors, and health officials worked desperately to identify and stop the scourge, a story that continues in the emergency departments of today.

Jeremy Brown is the first permanent director of the Office of Emergency Care Research at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Brown is currently an associate professor of emergency medicine and chief of the clinical research section in the Department of Emergency Medicine at The George Washington University. He is also an attending physician at the Washington DC VA Medical Center.

REGISTER: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/olli-at-au-influenza-and-emergency-medicine-tickets-56642291619

March 22—Mervin Richard


A painted terracotta bust that showed signs of its five-century provenance emerged from the prestigious National Gallery of Art Conservation Division in 2006 in splendor. The likeness had been conclusively identified as Lorenzo de’Medici, the head of a wealthy banking family that ruled the city-state of Florence in the Renaissance. The bust portrays him as a Florentine citizen wearing a simple draped headdress instead of the learned and ruthless de facto prince he was. Lorenzo’s identification and restoration is an example of the work of a 50-scientist conservation staff at the National Gallery of Art.  

Mervin Richard is the chief of conservation at the National Gallery of Art, where he has worked since 1984. Prior to joining the staff of the National Gallery, he worked as a painting conservator at the Intermuseum Conservation Association in Oberlin, Ohio, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Winterthur Museum. He was also an adjunct assistant professor of painting conservation in the graduate program at the University of Delaware/Winterthur Museum.

REGISTER: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/olli-at-au-conservation-tickets-56642770050

March 29—Howard McCurdy

2071: A Space Odyssey

This summer Americans will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first landing on the Moon. Since then, Americans have produced a winged space shuttle, a large international space station, four robotic rovers traversing Mars, grand tours throughout the solar system, four major space observatories (including the Hubble Space Telescope) and the first private companies prepared to provide space transportation services. Professor Howard McCurdy will examine the likely prospects for the next fifty-two years. Will humans return to the Moon? Will they land on Mars? What types of spacecraft will take humans into space? Will scientists discover life on other spheres and what wonders will new telescopes reveal?

Howard McCurdy is a professor in the School of Public Affairs at American University.  He has written eight books on space exploration policy including Space and the American Imagination, Robots in Space (with Roger D. Launius) and Inside NASA.  He is currently working on a book on innovation within the governmental science sector.

REGISTER: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/olli-at-au-2071-a-space-odyssey-tickets-56655031725

April 5—William Lucas

Mandela and deKlerk: The Miracle

An account by an eyewitness observer of the extraordinarily unlikely, and relatively peaceful, political settlement in 1994 between South Africa’s white minority government and the anti-apartheid resistance, with a focus on the historic role of long-time political prisoner Nelson Mandela and apartheid’s golden boy, President Frederik Willem de Klerk.  The lecture will cover the facilitative role of the United States; and current conditions in the country, including an assessment of the outcome almost 25 years later. 

William E. Lucas retired in 2012 from the U.S. Department of State’s senior foreign service. He served 33 years with overseas assignments in Europe, Africa, East Asia, and South Asia. In addition to two tours of duty as a political officer in the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, he served as a director in the African affairs office at the National Security Council; deputy director of the Department’s southern African affairs; and desk officer for South Africa.

REGISTER: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/olli-at-au-mandela-and-deklerk-the-miracle-tickets-56665005557

April 12—Robert Wilkins

A Museum for African Americans: 100 Years in the Making

Judge Robert L. Wilkins of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit played a key role in the establishment of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, serving as the Chairman of the Site and Building Committee of the Presidential Commission whose work led to the Congressional authorization of the museum and the selection of its location. His book, Long Road to Hard Truth: The 100-Year Mission to Create the National Museum of African American History and Culture, will serve as the basis for his presentation.

Robert L. Wilkins was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2014. Following law school, Judge Wilkins served as a law clerk to the Honorable Earl B. Gilliam of the US District Court for the Southern District of California. In 1990, he joined the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, where he served first as a staff attorney and later as Special Litigation Chief. He was the lead plaintiff in Wilkins, et al. v. State of Maryland, a landmark civil rights lawsuit that inspired nationwide legislative and executive reform of police stop-and-search practices. 

REGISTER: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/olli-at-au-a-museum-for-african-americans-100-years-in-the-making-tickets-56665375664

April 19—Jim Lardner

Whatever Happened to Financial Reform?

Ten years after the financial crisis and Great Recession, America is not paying much attention to the maladies of the banking world. There is little talk about the dangers of another meltdown, or the everyday damage sowed by a super-concentrated and immensely powerful financial industry. Is that because we fixed the problem? Or would it be more accurate to say we forgot the problem? Jim Lardner will retrace the history of the crisis and the political response from 2008 to now. What needed doing? What got done? What didn't get done? What got done on paper but has since been undone by lobbying of friends in high office?

Jim Lardner is an activist and journalist who has written for The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The Nation, and The New Republic, among other print and online publications. His books include Up to Our Eyeballs: How Shady Lenders and Failed Economic Policies Are Drowning Americans in Debt, NYPD: A City and Its Police, and Inequality Matters: The Growing Economic Divide in America and Its Poisonous Consequences.

REGISTER: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/olli-at-au-whatever-happened-to-financial-reform-tickets-56665861116

May 3—Stefan Fatsis


Scrabble was invented in a Queens walkup in the 1930s by an out-of-work architect named Alfred Butts. Butts tinkered with his game for years before it exploded into postwar American leisure culture. For his book Word Freak, Stefan Fatsis immersed himself in the culture of Scrabble, rising through the ranks to become an expert-rated player. Almost twenty years later, he's still playing (and still an expert). His talk explores the history of this iconic American game—and the powerful grip of language on our lives.   

Stefan Fatsis is a journalist and the author of three books. A former reporter for The Wall Street Journal and commentator for NPR's "All Things Considered," he is a cohost of Slate's weekly sports podcast, "Hang Up and Listen." His latest book, Unabridged, about Merriam-Webster and the future of the dictionary, will be published in 2020 by Simon & Schuster.

REGISTER: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/olli-at-au-scrabble-tickets-56666434832

OLLI does not endorse any of the viewpoints expressed by the speakers in its series.

We thank the Lecture Committee and all those who suggested and contacted speakers: 
Paul Brown, Martha Cutts, Lesley Diaz (Staff Liaison), Chuck Edson, 
Judith Havemann (Chair), Lynne Heneson, Jeanne Kent, Mary Moore, Stan Newman, Diane Renfroe, 
Richard Ringell, Steve Sherman, Delbert Spurlock, and Ray Squitieri.