Assembly Series announces changes; opens fall 2007 schedule with Maya Lin

September programs feature Maya Lin, Cory Booker, Alan Lightman, and Richard Sloan

The Fall 2007 Assembly Series parts with some of the traditions of the 54-year-old lecture series, while maintaining its mission of presenting to the Washington University community some of the most distinctive and vibrant voices of the day.

The main change involves transitioning from the dedicated day and time period — Wednesdays at 11 a.m. — to a variety of days and times when undergraduate students are more likely to be able to attend. Over the years, the once-sacrosanct “free” period has eroded to the point that most students, and faculty as well, cannot attend the lectures. To address the problem and to find the best times and days to present speakers, the fall 2007 Assembly Series programs will be held at various times and on different days. By the 2008 spring semester, the goal is for the Assembly Series Committee to have a much better understanding of the optimum times to hold the programs.

In addition to this change, the Assembly Series schedule will be published on a monthly basis, so that timely updates and more information about the lectures can be provided.

The fall 2007 September lecture schedule follows. Please note the dates, times, and places for each talk. All Assembly Series programs are free and open to the public, although specific events may have restrictions.

Maya Lin

Opening the series on Thursday, September 6, will be the artist-architect-designer Maya Lin, whose talk, “Between Art and Architecture,” will be held at 7:30 p.m. in Graham Chapel. Although the presentation is free, tickets are required for admission; please contact the Edison Theatre Box Office at 314-935-6543 for details.

From 1981, when the 21-year-old Yale University student won the contest for designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, to her current work featuring sculptures, drawings, and large-scale installations, Lin has resisted categorization and has built a remarkable body of work establishing her as one of the most significant artists of her time. Whether it is a public monument, sculpture, design object, or building, her images are characterized by their harmony of message and material, often blurring the boundaries of art, architecture, and design.

Lin’s talk is presented by the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts in collaboration with the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, host for her major exhibition, “Maya Lin: Systematic Landscapes” from Sept. 7 through Dec. 30, 2007. The exhibition showcases her more recent artistic interests that explore the meaning of landscape in a time of ecological tension and technological change, and express the fragile connection we have to our environment.

She achieved prominence early in her career by literally redefining America’s idea of a memorial. Since then she has continued to create monuments, including the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, AL, as well as a variety of large-scale, site-specific installations.

Later this year Lin will receive the 2007 “Twenty-five Year Award” from the American Institute of Architects for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In addition, she has recently been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, becoming the youngest artist to receive the honor. She also is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2000, she published Boundaries, a collection of essays.

Cory Booker

The mayor of Newark, NJ started out as a grass roots community activist, trying to improve living conditions for the underserved in his embattled city. The Rhodes Scholar and Yale law school graduate has a deeply ingrained belief in helping others. His talk, “How to Change the World with your Bare Hands: A Life-long Commitment to Community,” will be held at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14 in Laboratory Sciences Auditorium, as part of the John B. Ervin Scholars 20th Anniversary Celebration.

Alan Lightman

The concepts of space and time, as a young Albert Einstein might have considered while on the verge of a great scientific discovery, is remarkably imagined in Lightman’s book, Einstein’s Dreams. The noted physicist and fiction writer’s 1993 book was chosen for this year’s Freshman Reading Program selection. His presentation, “Einstein and Relativity,” explores the theory of relativity in an entertaining way, at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19 in Graham Chapel.

Lightman’s other fictional works include Good Benito and The Diagnosis, which was a finalist for the 2000 National Book Award. A new book, Ghost: A Novel, will be released in October. He teaches in the writing and humanities program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Richard Sloan

Having faith is undoubtedly a comfort but does it have curative powers? Sloan addresses the controversial question, “Is Religion Good for Your Health?” at 11 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 26 in Graham Chapel.

In his book, Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine, Sloan acknowledges the widespread belief among patients and doctors alike, but asserts there is no empirical evidence to support it, and argues that mixing religion and medicine does potentially more harm than good.

For a complete list of fall semester programs, or for updated information, visit the Assembly Series at or call 314-935-5285. To receive email announcements for Assembly Series programs, sign up at