First Wednesdays Schedule

The Friends are pleased to bring you  the First Wednesdays Humanities Lecture Series, organised through the Vermont Humanities Council with the sponsorship of The Alma Gibbs Donchian Foundation, the National Life Group Foundation, and the Institute of Museum & Library Services through the Vermont Department of Libraries. Lectures are free of charge and, unless otherwise noted, are held on the first Wednesday of the month, October through May in the Ilsley Public Library meeting room at 7 PM.

Without the sponsorship of the Friends of the Ilsley Library, our library would have to find other funding to continue these programs. Please consider supporting the Friends of the Ilsley Library.


2017-2018 calendar:

October 4 : Michele Barale

Willa Cather’s Prairie Landscapes


Amherst College professor Michele Barale, the Thalheimer Professor of Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies, will examine the relationship between Willa Cather’s art and her very tangible earth in a presentation entitled “Willa Cather’s Prairie Landscapes”. 


Underwriter: A Friend of the Series



November 1: Robert Siegel

Robert_Siegel (1)

Considering All Things . . .

National Public Radio’s Robert Siegel reflects on his thirty years as co-host of the daily news program All Things Considered and the journalistic changes he has seen along the way. Location: McCullough Student Center, Old Chapel Road, Middlebury.

Underwriter: Vermont Public Radio



December 6: Marcelo Gleiser 

Physicists’ Dream of a Theory of Everything

Theoretical physicists have long dreamt of a theory of everything that encompasses all particles of matter and their interactions. Dartmouth professor Marcelo Gleiser describes how physicists and astronomers obtain knowledge of the natural world and how their limitations preclude us from ever getting to a “final” theory. 


Underwriter: Tapia & Huckabay, P.C.




January 3Emily Bernard


Race, Nation and Toni Morrison’s Beloved

UVM professor Emily Bernard explores how Beloved argues that America must reckon with the consequences of our nation’s original sin—slavery.
Underwriter: University of Vermont Humanities Center



THURSDAY, February 8: Douglas Blackmon

Slavery by Another NameChain gang

Historian and filmmaker Douglas Blackmon discusses his film, and Pulitzer-winning book, Slavery by Another Name, which chronicle the return of forced labor across the South between the Civil War and WWII, when hundreds of thousands of African-American men were convicted of trivial or trumped-up offenses—or
simply kidnapped—and sold into the forced labor camps of a new system of slavery. The talk includes brief film clips.

Underwriter: r.k. Miles 


March 7: Lisa Holmes

Presidents Appointing Judges  Gorsuch

As UVM professor Lisa Holmes explains, while presidents have long used judicial appointments to tilt the judiciary in one direction or another, less common historically have been presidents gaining great political benefit from appointing judges for ideological reasons. Its impact on the health of the judiciary remains to be seen.

Underwriter: University of Vermont Humanities Center


April 4: John Keenan

Understanding ScriptureBible

Middlebury professor emeritus John Keenan considers how we come to understand scripture and gain an interfaith reading of the text by stepping back to see it in context and by stepping aside the text to see parallels and similarities with other traditions.



May 2: Mark A. Stoler

Churchill and Roosevelt: The Personal in the PartnershipChurchill

University of Vermont History Professor Emeritus Mark A. Stoler examines the important personal relationship between Britain’s Prime Minister and America’s President during their World War II alliance.
Underwriter: Vermont Council on World Affairs