• Marian Miner Cook

    A distinctive
    feature of social and
    cultural life at CMC

  • Marian Miner Cook

    A distinctive
    feature of social and
    cultural life at CMC

  • Marian Miner Cook

    A distinctive
    feature of social and
    cultural life at CMC

Unique in U.S. higher education, the Athenaeum brings today’s leading scholars and activists, innovators and entrepreneurs, politicians and poets, scientists and musicians to engage our community in an intimate and relaxed setting.

Coming Up at the Ath

Monday, October 5, 2015 - 5:30pm
Political Cartooning and Satire in the Digital Age
Ted Rall

Ted Rall is the first American political cartoonist to break out of the underground weekly newspaper scene into major mainstream newspapers and magazines including the New York Times, Time Magazine, Newsweek, and the Los Angeles Times. He is also an award-winning author and columnist whose works include groundbreaking journalism from Afghanistan and Central Asia, political polemics, and seminal graphic novels.

Rall won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for his cartoons in 1995 and 2000. In 1996 he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. In 2011 Rall won the Alternative Weeklies Award and was a finalist in the Scripps-Howard Journalism Awards for the daily cartoon blog he filed from the front lines of the war in Afghanistan. In 2008-09 he was elected President of the Association of American Editorial Cartoons, the first and only of his generation of "young Turk" alternative cartoonists to be chosen by his colleagues for the position.

Rall is the editor-in-chief of SkewedNews.net, as well as an author, columnist and war correspondent. He is a former staff editorial cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times. His most recent books are Snowden and After We Kill You, We Will We Welcome You Back as Honored Guests.

Mr. Rall's Athenaeum talk is co-sponsored by the Center for Public Writing and Discourse. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - 5:30pm
The Seventeenth Century Executive
Michael McConnell

Michael W. McConnell is the Richard and Frances Mallery Professor and director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is a leading authority on freedom of speech and religion, the relation of individual rights to government structure, originalism, and various other aspects of constitutional history and constitutional law.

The framers of the United States Constitution had many models to draw on for the executive of the new American republic—most of them bad, says McConnell. But in the 240 years since the founding of the U.S., he believes we have drifted toward an understanding of the executive power none of the original framers imagined—whether for starting war or for administering peace. In his Athenaeum talk, McConnell will argue that it is time for us to think about the limits, if indeed there are any.

Professor McConnell's Athenaeum talk is the inaugural lecture of the Charles Lofgren Program in Constitutionalism through the Salvatori Center at CMC.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 5:30pm
Math for the New Millennium: Ideas that Change the World
Asuman Aksoy, Lenny Fukshansky, Blake Hunter, and Chiu-Ken Kao

Mathematics occupies a unique place among the vast variety of academic disciplines: it can be classified as both an art and a science. Its natural symmetry, elegant logic, and intrinsic beauty of arguments and constructions make it appear as a very sophisticated art form. Equally compelling, deep and seemingly abstract mathematical ideas prove to be exceptionally applicable. In modern times, the process of mathematical discovery is at the heart of both fundamental intellectual pursuit and technological innovation.

CMC mathematicians professors Asuman Aksoy P'05, Lenny Fukshansky, Blake Hunter, and Chiu-Ken Kao will explore some of the remarkable problems and ideas in several branches of modern mathematics, such as analysis, applied mathematics, statistics, and number theory. These, among other areas in math, significantly impact human activity, from natural sciences to engineering and computer science, digital communications to artificial intelligence, and many others. The panelists will also incorporate their work and research into the discussion.

Thursday, October 8, 2015 - 5:30pm
A Poetry Reading with Henri Cole
Henri Cole

Henri Cole has published nine collections of poetry, including Middle Earth, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. He has received many awards for his work, including the Jackson Prize, the Kingsley Tufts Award, the Rome Prize, the Berlin Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Lenore Marshall Award. His most recent collection, Nothing to Declare, was published by last spring. He teaches at Claremont McKenna College.


Friday, October 9, 2015 - 11:30am
Examining the Roots of Polarization in Our Constitutional Order
David Dreier RoundTable

The second annual Dreier RoundTable (DRt) will focus on the constitutional roots of political conflict in American politics. A panel of experts, including former Congressman David Dreier '75, Tom Campbell, dean of the Dale E. Fowler School of Law at Chapman University, and Thomas Mann, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution will deliberate competing visions of the Constitution, how they contribute to our current polarized politics, and contrast this with the work of James Madison, the chief architect of the Constitution. Can building a consensus on the Constitution help us to find our way out of the gridlock of hyper-partisanship, and improve trust in American institutions like Congress, the Presidency, the courts, and administrative agencies? Zachary Courser, research director of the Dreier RoundTable and visiting assistant professor of government at CMC, will moderate the discussion.


Monday, October 12, 2015 - 5:30pm
Soft Power is Hard!
Martha Bayles

What does the world admire about America? Science and technology, higher education, consumer products — but not, it seems, freedom and democracy. These ideals are in global retreat, contends Martha Bayles, in part because American “soft power” is itself retreating from the hostile propaganda from terrorist groups and authoritarian regimes. Bayles has explored this problem in 20 different countries and offers some striking insights.

In a turbulent world, she believes Americans cannot afford to turn inward. But neither can the U.S. rely entirely on its economic and military "hard power," says Bayles. It must also use "soft power." But to do that successfully, we need to understand how difficult—how "hard"—the use of soft power has become, in a world where U.S. adversaries are highly skilled in using propaganda and deploying 21st-century media.

Bayles is a nationally known cultural critic and the author of Through a Screen Darkly: Popular Culture, Public Diplomacy, and America’s Image Abroad (Yale 2014). A regular contributor to the Boston Globe, Weekly Standard, American Interest, and Claremont Review of Books, she is currently a visiting fellow at Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., and an associate professor of the practice of the humanities at Boston College. (Photo credit: Kris Brewer)

Read more about Martha Bayles...


Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - 5:30pm
Surfing for Change
Kyle Thiermann

Kyle Thiermann, pro surfer, philanthropist, environmental activist, and entrepreneur, captivates the attention of environmental and social activists by offering simple daily decisions and choices that benefit local economies. His award-winning documentary series Surfing For Change uses short, digestible documentaries to highlight specific environmental and social issues and solutions.

Thiermann graduated from Gaia University with a Bachelor's of Science in Green Business with a focus in Media. He has been featured in media throughout the world, including Outside Magazine, Discovery Channel, and Surfer Magazine. He speaks frequently to to help spread the larger message and lessons of Surfing For Change. Kyle's journalistic and environmental work has earned him the Brower Youth Award, American Clean Skies Award, Blue Vision Youth Award, and Surfrider's Pro Surfer Environmental Achievement Award. (Photo credit: Ryan Chachi Craig)

Read more about Kyle Thiermann...

Wednesday, October 14, 2015 - 5:30pm
The Fall of Prop. 8 - Marriage Equality at the U.S. Supreme Court
Kris Perry, Sandy Stier

Kris Perry & Sandy Stier were the lead plaintiffs in the landmark Supreme Court case Hollingsworth v. Perry, the federal challenge to California’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Perry and Stier first tried to marry in 2004, when the city of San Francisco began issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. But that marriage was revoked under court order. Four years later, shortly after California’s Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution guaranteed same-sex couples the right to marry, the Proposition 8 ballot initiative passed, changing the state constitution to limit marriage. When a legal team seeking to challenge Prop 8 approached Perry and Stier to be plaintiffs, they agreed, signing on to a case that would include a 12-day trial, making its way through district and appellate courts before finally appearing before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Off the legal circuit, Perry and Stier lead active professional lives. Perry is the executive director of the First Five Years Fund, which works to bring resources and support to parents, caregivers, and professionals to ensure children grow up healthy and ready to succeed in school and in life. Stier is a senior health policy advisor and advocate for delivering health care services to the public generally, and vulnerable populations in particular. She currently works at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C., where she leads efforts to achieve better results in integrated health systems.

Perry and Stier will talk about their legal and personal journey toward marriage equality.

Other Events and Announcements

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 - 5:30pm
Body 3.0
Nina Tandon

Nina Tandon is CEO and co-founder of EpiBone, the world’s first company growing living human bones for skeletal reconstruction. She is the co-author of Super Cells: Building with Biology, a book that explores the new frontier of biotech. A TED Senior Fellow and an adjunct professor of electrical engineering at the Cooper Union, she holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Cooper Union and a master’s degree in bioelectrical engineering from MIT. She also holds both a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and an MBA from Columbia University.

On the cutting edge of science where sci-fi meets reality, Tandon works on growing artificial hearts and bones that can be put into the body, and studies the new frontier of biotech. She believes that the era of engineered tissues—for example, a replacement kidney grown in the lab—is just beginning. In this talk, Tandon will illustrate how we (and our bodies) have lived through most of history (Body 1.0), and then how we evolved into "cyborgs" with implants (such as pacemakers and artificial joints (Body 2.0). Now, Body 3.0 is all about growing our OWN body parts.

Read more about Nina Tandon...

Thursday, November 19, 2015 - 5:30pm
An Evening with David Sedaris
David Sedaris

David Sedaris is a humorist, comedian, author, and radio contributor. A regular on NPR and in the New Yorker, he the best-selling author of, among many other books, Me Talk Pretty One Day and When You Are Engulfed in Flames. With sardonic wit and incisive social critique, Sedaris has become one of America’s pre-eminent humor writers and a master of satire. Spaces for this event will be extremely limited and restricted to CMC students, faculty, and staff. More information will be forthcoming. (Photo credit: Hugh Hamrick) Read more...


Follow the Athenaeum


Unless otherwise noted, lunch begins at 11:30 a.m.; speaker presentations begin at noon.
Evening receptions begin at 5:30 p.m.; dinner is served at 6 p.m.; speaker presentations begin at 6:45 p.m.

The Athenaeum facilitates dynamic interactions and dialogue that underscore
the essence of a liberal arts education.

About the Ath

View a brochure that describes how the Ath has been an integral part of the CMC experience for decades.

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Events at the Ath feed not only the minds of CMC community members, but also their stomachs as well.


Past speakers describe their experiences interacting with the Claremont McKenna College community.

Video Library

Watch videos of many of the past speakers who have visited the Ath and shared their insights.