The Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts will host speakers with various perspectives on American leadership as part of its first lecture series.

The Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts will host speakers with various perspectives on American leadership as part of its first lecture series.

"The lecture series is a new initiative that came as a result of more input from the community," said Ted DeDee, director of the McCoy center. "People thought it would be nice to have a small lecture series."

After discussing potential topics and speakers, DeDee said a few rose to the top of the list.

"Each has a different common American perspective," DeDee said.

Four lectures are planned from January to April.

The first, slated for Tuesday, Jan. 11, features Ed Chappell, director of architectural and archaeological research with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Chappell will draw parallels and document similarities between one of the earliest examples of a planned community Williamsburg, Va. and the modern principles of planning at work in New Albany.

The lecture will also include special guest William Barker, who will impersonate Thomas Jefferson.

As part of lecture, Barker will visit New Albany schools in character Jan. 12 to answer questions from students.

Barker said he will emphasize the importance of architecture by speaking from Jefferson's perspective.

"Architecture was one of his greatest delights, putting up and pulling down," Barker said.

Jefferson was a proponent of using ancient architecture that translated into modern uses, Barker said. Medieval cathedrals, for example, that were built to project more natural light not only signify coming out of a dark period they also make people happy, he said. Similarly, high ceilings can encourage greater air movement.

Barker said he also would focus on the importance of public service and the idea of bringing civics back into schools.

"For students who have not been to Colonial Williamsburg, this introduces them to Jefferson's association with Colonial Williamsburg and shows them how it was so influential in his life," he said.

New Albany resident Jeff Rodek helped facilitate the first lecture, as well as organize the series. Rodek is a member of the Colonial Williamsburg's President's Council and, having recently moved to New Albany, said he felt a need to link his new home to Colonial Williamsburg because of the many attributes the communities share.

"It's a natural sister city, in a way, between New Albany and Williamsburg," Rodek said. "Les Wexner had visited Williamsburg when he was in the design phase and I thought new Albany should have a connection with Williamsburg."

Since Colonial Williamsburg also is trying to do more outreach by developing electronic programs for schools, Rodek said, he saw an opportunity for an educational component to the partnership.

"I think it would be great for New Albany to be an example of a satellite opportunity for Williamsburg, to have a presence in person (through the lecture series) and as an electronic classroom, as well," he said.

Rodek said Chappell and Barker would talk about the 1700s and how planning shapes a community by helping adults and students realize their role as citizens.

"We have obligations as citizens, not just rights," he said. "We sometimes forget about that."

Rodek said the speakers from Colonial Williamsburg also have a knack for connecting history with current events.

"They (Colonial Williamsburg representatives) have an unbelievably effective way of teaching history but also relating it to the issues of today,' he said. "We need to learn from our past to make better decisions about the future and of course not repeat the same mistakes."

The other lectures have a similar focus on leadership in American history.

On Tuesday, Feb. 15, Jean Edward Smith, a political science professor at Marshall University, will present a lecture focused on Franklin D. Roosevelt.

More political figures will be covered on Tuesday, March 22, with a lecture titled "American Politics at the Breaking Point" by Robert Schmuhl. Schmuhl is director of the John W. Gallivan Program of Journalism, Ethics and Democracy at the University of Notre Dame.

The final lecture on Wednesday, April 20, will feature Clarence Jones, who was Martin Luther King Jr.'s speechwriter and adviser. Craig Mohre, executive director of the New Albany Community Foundation, which supports the lecture series, said Jones' lecture would include an appearance in New Albany schools. Jones' visit to the schools is being funded through an initiative by the foundation.

Each lecture in the series will be in Mershad Hall at the McCoy center, which seats about 130. The smaller room was chosen to provide a stronger amount of audience interaction, Dedee said. Each lecture is anticipated to run 45 to 50 minutes, allowing time after for a question-and-answer session, he said.

Dedee said if any of the lectures generate more interest, the program will be moved into the main theater room, which seats nearly 800.

Admission for each lecture is $7, but students will be admitted for free. Tickets may be purchased in advance through www.mccoycenter.org.

DeDee said students will be admitted for free because "not all of the lectures have a classroom component. The McCoy center will provide information to local teachers, making sure they are aware of the potential experience available to their students.

"We're encouraging students to come and not just New Albany students," he said.

In addition to support from the New Albany Community Foundation, the series is sponsored by Abercrombie & Fitch, Lynne and Martyn Redgrave, Lance White and family and the Ryan family.

lwince@thisweeknews.com

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