September 02, 2008
Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins will kick off the inaugural year of the Winter Park Institute on Tuesday, Sept.9 at 7 p.m. with a public reading from his new book, Ballistics, which will be released that day. This event is free and open to the public. Collins will sign books after the reading. (Books will be available for purchase at the event.)
In addition to Billy Collins, the inaugural season boasts contemporary artists and scholars including Béla Fleck, Marilyn Horne, Linda Wagner-Martin, Robert Muehlenkamp, Michael Phillips and Steven Joel Trachtenberg.
In the long-standing tradition of Rollins College's commitment to advancing scholarly discourse, an exciting new project begins this fall. The Winter Park Institute (WPI) launches its inaugural year with the mission of fostering a vital community of scholarly engagement. To accomplish this goal, the College will bring together distinguished faculty members and thought leaders from diverse fields of study invited for limited residencies. The ultimate goal of WPI is to establish an atmosphere of enlightened conversation and capture the synergy created when scholars share information, debate issues and shed light on a variety of significant, timely topics.
The Institute's roots can be traced back to spring 2007, when Rollins brought a number of thought leaders to campus, including Maya Angelou, Francis Fukuyama, Steven Pinker, Salman Rushdie and E.O. Wilson, to discuss liberal education and social responsibility in a global community. The intellectual energy produced during this colloquy fueled the launch of WPI to provide a venue for ongoing exchanges of ideas between faculty and scholars.
"Should we not invest some essential time exploring the fundamental concerns facing the world today and giving thought to the great issues challenging the human condition?" asked Rollins College President Lewis Duncan.
Gail Sinclair, executive director of WPI, explained that the commitment is threefold: to foster intellectual dialogue between resident scholars and Rollins faculty and students; to provide opportunities for scholars to share with the community beyond Rollins; and to promote a conducive atmosphere for scholars to exchange ideas.
"We are excited to bring high-caliber intellectual and artistic leaders to Rollins and to the Central Florida community," Sinclair said. "It is a wonderful opportunity to give back while also investing in the future." The Institute will host events such as lectures, discussion sessions and receptions to allow for interactions with resident scholars.
The Institute is housed in Osceola Lodge and the adjacent Knowles Cottage, which were offered for this purpose by the Charles Hosmer Morse and Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundations. In 1904, Morse bought what is now Osceola Lodge, which became his permanent residence until his death in 1921. Jeannette Genius, his granddaughter, resided there with her husband, Hugh F. McKean, 10th president of Rollins College. Approximately 12 original paintings by the McKeans will grace the walls of the Lodge.
Many believe that the Lodge's new residents would please the McKeans. "Hugh was very proud of the numerous distinguished figures who came to Rollins and Winter Park over the years," said Thaddeus Seymour, Rollins' 12th president. "He introduced me to the booklet by Cora Harris, The Town that Became a University, and I remember one day in the 1980s, standing with him in front of Osceola Lodge, when he thought out loud about a facility for distinguished visitors to our community. 'This would be a wonderful home for visiting scholars,' he mused. How happy and proud he would be to see the Winter Park Institute."
Other community leaders are also enthusiastic about the scholarly possibilities. "WPI represents an inimitable community of scholars, students and citizens seeking insight into the challenges of the 21st century," said David Odahowski, president and CEO of the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation. "The gift of powerful ideas, thoughtful discernment and meaningful leadership on the timeless issues facing humanity is being offered to Winter Park and to the world beyond."
President Duncan observed that often times the most interesting and stimulating conversations take place in the hallways outside formal gatherings. WPI will offer a perfect setting for just such interactions, with the added benefit of listening in.
To view the calendar of public events, the list of resident scholars for the fall, a photo gallery of the Osceola Lodge and more, visit the Winter Park Institute website.