Welcome to The Athenaeum
Welcome to Athenaeum and the fall 2019 speaker program.
Unique in American higher education, the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum (the “Ath”) is a signature program of Claremont McKenna College. Four nights a week during the school year, the Ath brings scholars, public figures, thought leaders, artists, and innovators to engage with the CMC and Claremont College community in the Eggert Dining Room. In addition, the Ath also hosts lunch speakers, roundtables, and smaller presentations in its two auxiliary dining rooms.
For decades, the Ath has hosted a spectrum of luminaries with expertise and insight on a wide range of topics, both historical and contemporary. In the Ath’s intimate yet stimulating setting, students, faculty, staff, and other community members gather to hear the speaker, pose questions, and also to build community and exchange ideas over a shared meal.
At the core of the Ath is a longstanding commitment to student growth and learning. Central to the Ath are its two student Fellows, selected annually to host, introduce, and moderate discussion with the featured speaker. Priority is given to students in attendance during the question-and-answer session following every presentation. Moreover, speakers often take extra time to visit a class, meet with student interest groups, or give an interview to the student press and podcast team.
We look forward to seeing you at the Ath.
Tara Westover spent her childhood and teen years preparing for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches, stewing herbs during the summer for her mother—a midwife and healer— and in the winter, salvaging in her father’s junkyard.
Self-motivated and driven, she then taught herself enough mathematics, grammar, and science to take the ACT and was admitted to Brigham Young University. Without a primary education—without even a birth certificate or exact birth date—she was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. After that first encounter with education—which was both uplifting and devastating—she pursued learning for a decade, graduating magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 2008 and subsequently winning a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She earned an M.Phil. from Trinity College, Cambridge in 2009, and in 2010 was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She returned to Cambridge, where she was awarded a Ph.D. in history in 2014.
Educated was long listed for the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence and had spent 32 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list. Former President Barack Obama named Educated as one of the books on his summer reading list of 2018.
Ms. Westover’s Athenaeum presentation is jointly sponsored by the Athenaeum, the Center for Writing and Public Discourse, the Gould Center for Humanistic Studies, and the President's Leadership Fund, all at CMC.
Photo credit: Lorentz Gullachsen
Paul Beninger ’73 P’09 is an associate professor of Public Health & Community Medicine at Tufts University where he also directs the MD/MBA and MBS/MBA programs. He has more than three decades of experience as a regulator and member of the Senior Executive Service in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as a manager and executive in the pharmaceutical industry, including pharmacovigilance, and as a member of the academic community.
Beninger began his career in drug development in 1987 at the FDA, first as a reviewer and manager for drugs to combat HIV/AIDS and opportunistic infection and then as a division director for medical devices. He joined Merck & Company in 1995 and developed experience in regulatory affairs, medical affairs and drug safety in the areas of anti-infective drug and biological products, vaccines, anti-diabetic drug products and oncology drug products, before joining Genzyme as vice-president of pharmacovigilance in 2006 where he worked until 2017.
Beninger has published and spoken extensively on regulatory science, drug and vaccine safety, and pharmacovigilance. He is a topics editor (pharmacovigilance and pharmacoepidemiology) for Clinical Therapeutics, and a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the Infectious Disease Society of America.
A 1973 graduate of Claremont McKenna College where he studied mathematics, biology and psychology, Beninger received his M.D. from the University of California, Davis and subsequently trained in internal medicine and infectious diseases. He also holds an MBA from St Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and a graduate certificate in epidemiology from Tufts.
Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for President Obama, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, war correspondent, and the Anna Lindh Professor of Practice at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Law School, spent half of her career explaining complex geopolitical events and eight years at the UN helping to shape them.
As the 28th U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Power became the public face of U.S. opposition to Russian aggression in Ukraine and Syria, negotiated the toughest sanctions in a generation against North Korea, lobbied to secure the release of political prisoners, and helped mobilize global action against ISIL. From 2009 to 2013, she served on the National Security Council as special assistant to the President and senior director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights.
Called “a powerful crusader for U.S foreign policy as well as human rights and democracy” by Forbes, Power was named one of Foreign Policy’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers.” The American Academy in Berlin awarded her the 2016 Henry A. Kissinger Prize. “She has an excellent and analytical mind,” said Kissinger, “I admire the way she has faced our challenges.”
Her book, A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2003.
Before joining the U.S. government, Power was the founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, a columnist for Time, and a National Magazine Award-winning contributor to the Atlantic, the New Yorker, and the New York Review of Books.
At the age of nine, she immigrated to the United States from Ireland. Power earned a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Beginning her career as a journalist, Power reported from places such as Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan, and Zimbabwe.
Ambassador Power’s Athenaeum presentation is jointly sponsored by the Athenaeum, the Lecture in Diplomacy and International Security in Honor of George F. Kennan, Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies, Mgrublian Center for Human Rights, and the President’s Leadership Fund, all at CMC.
Anna Lau is a child clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research spans the areas of disparities in children’s mental health services, cultural variation in risk and protective factors for child psychopathology, and community implementation of evidence-based practices. Lau’s work on risk and protective factors for youth in immigrant families has guided her treatment research with Asian American and Latinx children. Another major research effort involves understanding factors that promote the use of evidence-based practices by therapists in community mental health clinics in Los Angeles County.
Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, is the author of seven books and many articles on public policy, culture, and government. He is a contributing writer for The Atlantic and recipient of the 2005 National Magazine Award, the magazine industry’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. His latest book is The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50.
In 2013, he published Denial: My 25 Years Without a Soul, a memoir of his struggle with his sexuality, brought out as an ebook from The Atlantic Books. His previous book was Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America, published in 2004 by Times Books (Henry Holt). His most recent ebook is Political Realism: How Hacks, Machines, Big Money, and Back-Room Deals Can Strengthen American Democracy (Brookings, 2015). Although much of his writing has been on public policy, he has also written on topics as widely varied as adultery, agriculture, economics, gay marriage, height discrimination, biological rhythms, number inflation, and animal rights.
A graduate of Yale University, Rauch become a reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina before moving to Washington in 1984. From 1984-89 he covered fiscal and economic policy for National Journal. In 1990 he spent six months in Japan as a fellow of the Japan Society Leadership Program.
In addition to the National Magazine Award, his honors include the 2010 National Headliner Award, one of the industry’s most venerable prizes. In 1996 he was awarded the Premio Napoli alla Stampa Estera for his coverage, in The Economist, of the European Parliament. In 2011 he won the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association prize for excellence in opinion writing. He has also won two second-place prizes (2000 and 2001) in the National Headliner Awards. His articles appear in The Best Magazine Writing 2005 and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004 and 2007. He has appeared as a guest on many television and radio programs.
Mr. Rauch’s Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the Salvatori Center at CMC.
Michele Moody-Adams is Joseph Straus Professor of Political Philosophy and Legal Theory at Columbia University, where she has also served as dean of Columbia College and vice president for undergraduate education. She holds degrees from Wellesley College, the University of Oxford (where she was a Marshall Scholar), and Harvard University, where she earned her Ph.D. under the direction of John Rawls. She has been a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow and she is a lifetime Honorary Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford. She is the author of Fieldwork in Familiar Places: Morality, Culture and Philosophy and is currently at work on a book entitled Renewing Democracy. She has also published numerous articles on moral psychology, justice, gender and race, academic freedom, and democratic disagreement.
Professor Moody-Adams' Athenaeum presentation is one of two keynote addresses for the Imagination and Social Justice Conference organized and sponsored by the Gould Center for Humanistic Studies.
Susan A. Thornton is a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School and Senior Fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center. In 2018, she retired from the State Department after a 28-year diplomatic career focused primarily on East and Central Asia. In leadership roles in Washington, Thornton worked on China and Korea policy, including stabilizing relations with Taiwan, the U.S.-China Cyber Agreement, the Paris Climate Accord and led a successful negotiation in Pyongyang for monitoring of the Agreed Framework on denuclearization.
In her 18 years of overseas postings in Central Asia, Russia, the Caucasus and China, Thornton’s leadership furthered U.S. interests and influence and maintained programs and mission morale in a host of difficult operating environments. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, she was among the first State Department Fascell Fellows and served from 1989–90 at the U.S. Consulate in Leningrad. She was also a researcher at the Foreign Policy Institute from 1987–91. Thornton holds degrees from the National Defense University’s Eisenhower School, the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and Bowdoin College. She speaks Russian, Mandarin Chinese and French, is a member of numerous professional associations and is on the board of trustees for the Eurasia Foundation.
Professor Thornton’s Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies at CMC.
Terisa Siagatonu is an award-winning poet, teaching artist, mental health educator, and community leader born and rooted in the Bay Area. She has performed and spoken at the Obama White House and at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris, France. She was awarded Champion of Change Award in 2012 by President Obama for her activism as a spoken word poet/organizer in her Pacific Islander community.
With numerous viral poetry videos garnering over millions of views collectively, Siagatonu 's writing blends the personal, cultural, and political in a way that calls for healing, courage, justice, and truth. A Kundiman Fellow, her work has been published in Poetry Magazine and has been featured on Button Poetry, CNN, NBCNews, NPR, Huffington Post, Everyday Feminism, The Guardian, BuzzFeed and Upworthy.
Since getting involved in poetry slam in 2010, she has been a member of several award-winning slam teams, including the 2017 inaugural Root Slam Team, helping her team to place 5th in the nation at the National Poetry Slam competition in Denver, CO. When she's not competing, she is coaching college poetry slam teams and mentoring young writers in writing workshops throughout the country. She is one of the co-founders and organizers of The Root Slam, a free bi-weekly poetry venue based in Oakland, CA, voted the 2017 and 2018's Best Open Mic venue in the Bay Area.
Siagatonu holds a B.A. degree in community studies and a minor in education from the University of California-Santa Cruz and a M.A. in marriage/family therapy from the University of Southern California. She strives to use her background as a mental health clinician and poet to bridge the gaps in the quest for collective healing and liberation.
Ms. Siagatonu’s Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the Berger Institute for Work, Family, and Children at CMC.
Reyna Grande is the bestselling author of the memoirs The Distance Between Us and A Dream Called Home. Her other works include the novels Across a Hundred Mountains and Dancing with Butterflies. She is the recipient of the Luis Leal Award for Distinction in Chicano/Latino Literature, an American Book Award, and the El Premio Aztlan Literary Award, among others. She was also a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award. She holds a B.A. and M.F.A. in creative writing and teaches at writing conferences such as the Macondo Writer's Conference, the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference, and VONA. Born in Mexico, Reyna walked across the US-Mexico border at nine years old to be reunited with her father. She writes about immigration, trauma, family separation, and displacement.
Ms. Grande’s Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the Claremont Colleges’ Chicano Latino Student Affairs and CMC’s Center for Writing and Public Discourse.
In 2010, Susana Martinez was elected governor of the state of New Mexico. She became New Mexico’s first female governor and the first Hispanic female governor in the history of the United States. Prior to being elected governor, Martinez was a prosecutor for 25 years along the nation’s southern border and served as Doña Ana County’s elected district attorney for over half that time. As governor, she prioritized keeping New Mexico’s communities safe, ensuring all students receive a high-quality education, and diversifying and growing the state’s economy.
Martinez’s two terms were marked by many successes including eliminating a $450 million inherited budget deficit and leaving the state with a $2 billion surplus; job growth at a 12-year high; improving the state’s high school graduation rate by 10 percentage points – to an all-time high of 74 percent; and implementing a number of public safety initiatives.
Martinez won re-election to her second term in 2014 by the largest margin of any Republican gubernatorial candidate in modern history, earning substantial support from Democratic and Independent voters in rural and urban areas alike. She served alongside a Democratically-controlled Legislature throughout her time in office, with the exception of a two-year period of Republican control of one chamber. She has been named as Time Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People in the World (2013) and served as a Chairman and long-time executive committee member of the Republican Governors Association (RGA).
Born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley, Martinez has lived in Las Cruces, New Mexico since the 1980s. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at El Paso and later earned her law degree from the University of Oklahoma School of Law, where she was recently inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame.
Martinez currently serves as a board member for the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) and as an advisory board member for the Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows program of the Hunt Institute. A proud Blue Star Mother, Martinez is also an advisory board member for the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation.
Governor Martinez is a William F. Podlich Distinguished Fellow at CMC this fall.
Paul Hessburg, Ph.D., is a research ecologist with Pacific Northwest Research Station, U.S. Forest Service. He has studied historical and modern era forests of the Inland West for the last 32 years and has published extensively in leading national and international journals. His work documents large changes in forest conditions and how these changes, along with climate change, have set the stage for large and severe wildfires.
Hessburg was the recipient of the USFS 2017 R&D Deputy Chief's Distinguished Science Award for his significant contribution to fire and landscape ecology. His most recent book, Making Transparent Environmental Management Decisions, offers compelling new insights into using modern-day decision support systems to plan for forest restoration.
The first Deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, Haben Girma advocates for equal opportunities for people with disabilities. President Obama named her a White House Champion of Change. She received the Helen Keller Achievement Award, and a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. Girma believes disability is an opportunity for innovation and travels the world teaching the benefits of choosing inclusion. In August, she published her first book, Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law. She has since been featured on the Today Show. Her work has also been featured in the Financial Times, BBC, Washington Post, NPR, and more.
Follow the Athenaeum
Unless otherwise noted, lunch begins at 11:45 a.m.; speaker presentations begin at 12:15 p.m.
Evening receptions begin at 5:30 p.m.; dinner is served at 6 p.m.; speaker presentations begin at 6:45 p.m.