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Ker Conway visits Monmouth College

September 17, 2010

On Wednesday, Sept. 15, the department of philosophy and religious studies held its annual Samuel M. Thompson Memorial Lecture, featuring author Jill Ker Conway.

Ker Conway who was born in Hillston, New South Wales, has an impressive career having graduated from the University of Sydney with a degree in history and English and then earning her doctorate in history from Harvard in 1969. She then went on to serve as vice president for internal affairs at the University of Toronto until 1975, when she became the first woman president of Smith College for 10 years.  Conway has also worked in the corporate world as director of companies such as, Colgate-Palmolive Co., Nike, Inc., and Merrill Lynch & Co.

However, she is most well known to the Monmouth College campus as an author, specifically of the main book used in the Introduction to Liberal Arts classes, chronicling her early life, “The Road from Coorain.” 

For the annual Thompson lecture, Ker Conway focused her attention on a subject that she has been studying on and off for years: the relationships between men and women. The talk entitled, “Thinking About Women,” focused on how the relationship between men and women works. Ker Conway made it known that many different factors make up this study. Issues like theology, science and demography all have an effect on how we perceive relationships. 

Ker Conway provided the example that due to advances in science, specifically the microscope, this allowed scientists to change previous perceptions about male and female characteristics with the close-up research on sperm and ova. This created a new perception of  the sexes, moving from the idea that females are were erotic and hyper, while males were calmer, to the idea that males are the more chaotic beings and females are the more docile beings. Still, perceptions of men and women are changing.

Ker Conway conveyed that the main issues to looking at the differences between the relationships of men and women deals mainly with the vulgarizing and popularizing of science and constant changes in demographics. Ker Conway made it known that with this kind of study, it is hard to come to definite conclusions and we may not arrive at an understanding of why there are certain relationships between men and women.

As part of her visit, Ker Conway was also invited to talk with the Introduction to Liberal Arts, ILA, classes about her book, The Road from Coorain. 

ILA coordinator, Professor Mark Willhardt commented on Jill Ker Conway’s visit by saying, “Truthfully, we’re lucky to have a scholar and writer of such stature appear, not only because of her connections to our ILA curriculum, but also because she is at a moment of her career where she really doesn’t have to travel or deliver lectures anymore …the fact that she decided to come to Monmouth, then, is really about her desire to visit us, not just see us as another stop on a book tour.”

Anne Mamary, associate professor of philosophy and religious studies, who helped to get Conway to come to Monmouth, commented on having the author of The Road from Coorain do the Samuel Thompson Lecture and convocation. 

“To have the book’s author come to campus to give both the Samuel M. Thompson memorial lecture and ILA convocation is especially exciting,” said Mamary. “Here is a fantastic opportunity to meet the real person, who agreed to come to Monmouth for the sheer pleasure of talking with us about ideas.”

When asked what she hoped the MC community and the town of Monmouth got out of her lecture, Ker Conway said, “I hope that people will take the ideas presented and go correct, and learn more and further their knowledge.”

When asked about how she felt having her book used as a main aspect of the ILA curriculum, she responded, “It is absolutely wonderful … it is nice because I wrote the book with college age people in mind … it is a great honor.”

Contributing Writer

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