• 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 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.

Weekly Menus

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.