How does one survive the trauma of a childhood full of emotional pain? For distinguished author Francine du Plessix Gray, it was grist for the mill of her Pulitzer Prize-nominated 2005 memoir Them, which chronicles a privileged but neglected upbringing by Russian emigre parents in New York in the 1940s. “Being ill-treated by people who were kind but too busy climbing the social ladder of the city to pay attention to me, made me into a stronger person,” says du Plessix Gray in a candid discussion with Bill Kelly, part of the Extraordinary Lives series at the Graduate Center. “As a writer you have to criticize people for their actions, but you have to end with compassion.”
Before David Nasaw took on the daunting challenge of writing a biography of one of the country’s major historical figures, he asked for access to the family archive. “I demanded and received full permission to see all the papers that had been classified and kept away from all researchers,” says Nasaw, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. professor of history at the Graduate Center, in a discussion with Gary Giddins about his new book, “The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy.” Nasaw also warned the family about the contents: “You don’t want me to write this book,” he told the late Senator Edward Kennedy. “It’s not going to make the family happy and who knows when there might be another Kennedy running for office.”
Award-winning Broadway producer Roger Berlind credits legendary composer Richard Rodgers for encouraging him to follow his own theatrical path. “He was my idol,” says Berlind, who traveled with Rodgers as an assistant producer before striking out on his own in a career spanning more than 30 years. Berlind, whose current production of “The Book of Mormon” is his 15th Tony award winner, appeared at “On Producing: Broadway’s Roger Berlind,” an event moderated by Mara Isaacs and sponsored by the Segal Center at the Graduate Center.
“An embarrassment and an affront to the American people,” is how Time political correspondent Joe Klein describes the field of Republican candidates in the 2012 presidential primary race. Longtime Washington and New York journalist and author of the novel Primary Colors, Klein joined Ben Smith of Politico and Peter Beinart of CUNY Graduate School of Journalism to discuss perspectives on the 2012 election.
When Peter Gelb took the helm of the Metropolitan Opera, he was determined to re-energize America’s premier opera house, even at the risk of upsetting the establishment. “It’s a mistake for any cultural institution — or any institution that is older — to think that change isn’t necessary,” said Geld to an audience at the CUNY Graduate Center. “That’s a recipe for stagnation or demise.” Since being named general manager in 2006, Gelb has launched a number of initiatives including staging new productions by directors from the film and theater industries and the popular, live high-definition transmissions of broadcasts to movie theaters. Gelb appeared with Bill Kelly, president of the Graduate Center, as part of the Extraordinary Lives Series.
Before advertising’s creative revolution in the late 1950s and 60s, the TV commercial landscape was filled with dull, repetitive images — like dancing cigarettes — lacking wit and originality. “People were bored and sick of the jingles,” says Andrew Cracknell, author of The Real Mad Men: The Remarkable True Story of Madison Avenue’s Golden Age. “After the revolution they began to treat consumers with intelligence and give them something with substance,” referring to work by agencies such as Doyle Dane Berbach, who created the groundbreaking “Think Small” campaign for Volkswagon in 1959. At a Graduate Center event, Cracknell was joined by Barbara Lippert, former advertising critic for Adweek, and Amil Gargano, advertising executive and a founder of the agency, Ally & Gargano, to discuss how these real life “Mad” men and women inspired others in the industry.
Some charter schools get funding from Wall Street, and the support may be there for reasons that ultimately benefit business, says Michelle Fine, a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the Graduate Center. In the continuing debate over the effectiveness of charter schools versus traditional public schools, the source of support is an important factor that people should be aware of, according to Fine. Two-thirds of the Harlem Children’s Zone is funded by private money, “some of that from Goldman Sachs,” said Fine, referring to the Harlem-based charter school. “It’s a tax write-off, a way into the privatization of all things public, and a way to break up the unions,” said Fine in her lecture, “Charter Schools: The Promise vs. The Evidence,” part of the CUNY Science Cafe lecture series.
Progressives tend to see the Great Recession as the result of the untrammeled free market. Tea Party conservatives argue that government gone wild is the real story. Who’s right? Listen as Peter Beinart of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism joined by Richard Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review magazine and Josh Marshall, editor of the liberal political blog, TalkingPointsMemo.com, deconstruct the 2012 presidential campaign in a lively discussion at the CUNY Graduate Center.
Twenty years ago Barnes & Noble introduced super stores that “specifically targeted venerable independents and undermined them with discounts,” says literary agent Eric Simonoff. Now e-books and online sales are targeting both the Barnes and Noble giants and the few remaining niche booksellers. Simonoff, author Jonathan Ames and others gathered at the CUNY Graduate Center to consider the future of neighborhood bookstores, once fixtures throughout the city. “The e-book is here to stay, and Amazon is the big bully on the block,” says Simonoff.
For every dollar earned by a man in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, a female counterpart earns 14 percent less, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. It’s a statistic that City College professor Maribel Vazquez says must change. “Women in the workforce lack strong negotiation skills, Vazquez says, “because female aggression is perceived negatively by both men and women.” Vazquez delivered the keynote address at “Women in Science: Negotiating a Successful Academic Career,” a panel discussion at the CUNY Graduate Center. An associate professor of Biomedical Engineering, Vazquez also presented her research on the use of micro and nanotechnology in the study of cell migration in the brain.