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Eighth Annual "Books that Change the World" Seminar

Notre Dame College is proud to present its eighth annual “Books That Change the World” seminar series for the 2015-2016 academic year, offering leaders and aspiring leaders—and anyone with a passion for lifelong learning—the opportunity to meet and discuss a common theme for the year.

This year’s series will explore A Life Well Lived, seeking insight into the moral, social and cultural challenges faced by leaders of the past and present.

Socrates is credited with having made the bold statement:  “An unexamined life is not worth living.”  Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden, “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” and again, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Each of us reaches a point in life – it may be a significant birthday, a major job change, or a shift in a key relationship – that moves us to wonder if everything (or maybe anything) we have accomplished thus far has any significance. More specifically, we ponder on whether or not our life has made a difference.

This notion of “A Life Well Lived” is the theme for the 2015-2016 “Books That Change the World” series. Several books in the series are about individuals who reflect on their lives – for some, it is a long life and for others, it is a life that was cut short. Some of the books are direct reflections on the meaningfulness of life and some are about individuals who confront poor decisions and try to make things right again.

Join us on Tuesday evenings or Thursday mornings to explore the questions “What is a well-lived life?”  “How is it measured?” “How is it defined?”

The readings for 2015-2016 are:

September The Road to Character David Brooks
October King Lear William Shakespeare
November Lila Marilynne Robinson
December The Last Days of Socrates
The Bible: Ecclesiasticus (circa 190BC)
Plato; Christopher Rowe

Film:  Schindler’s List

February Death Comes for the Archbishop Willa Cather
March            Letters to my Daughter Maya Angelou
April The Last Lecture Randy Pausch


Seminars anchored in the "great books tradition" draw leaders into thought-provoking analyses of contemporary issues through the medium of timeless literature and are among the most eagerly sought-after personal enrichment and professional development experiences. The ideas, concepts and situations these works present are as relevant to today’s challenges and opportunities as when they were first penned.

The College invites organizational or community leaders, or people who are passionate about great books and lifelong learning, to participate in "Books That Change the World" and join peers in stimulating discussions about fine literature.

The Schedule

To register or for additional information, please call Tina Jurcisin at 216.373.6520 or send an e-mail to tjurcisin@ndc.edu.

Participants will meet monthly to discuss a great literary work during a 90-minute session. During each session, participants will explore and discuss a different great work.

Those who enroll will receive a detailed schedule in advance.

Participants can choose between from two, as the seminar will meet one Tuesday evening and one Wednesday morning each month, beginning in September 2015 and ending in April 2016. The dates are: September 15 and 17; October 20 and 22; November 17 and 19; December 15 and 17; January TBA; February 16 and 18; March 15 and 17; and April 19 and 21.

Note: The only January 2015 session will be on January TBA and is "An Evening of Film Discussion: Schindler's List" Participants will receive a DVD of the film to view at their leisure prior to the evening’s discussion.

The Presenters

Kenneth Palko, M.A., is associate professor of philosophy on the Notre Dame faculty and has been with the College for nearly 15 years.

Sr. Eileen Quinlan, Ph.D., SND, is professor of English/communication and a published author. She joined Notre Dame’s faculty in the fall of 1999.


Participants will meet in the elegant, wood-paneled Tudor-style Great Room in the Administration Building on the Notre Dame campus, where ample free parking is available.


Tuition is $395 and includes all eight sessions, books and materials and refreshments.


To register by mail, complete the “A Life Well Lived” registration form and mail it to: Notre Dame College, 4545 College Road, South Euclid, Ohio 44121 ATTN: Tina Jurcisin

To register by fax, complete the “A Life Well Lived” registration form and fax to: 216.916.4176 ATTN: Tina Jurcisin

To register by phone, call Tina Jurcisin at 216.373.6520

When you call, you will need to identify whether you will be paying by check or credit card and provide your name; address; city; state; zip code; email address; and home, office and cell phone numbers so the College has multiple ways to contact you should it be necessary.

If paying by credit card, please be prepared to provide your credit card number, credit card type, security code and expiration date.

Please let us know whether you prefer to come to the Notre Dame campus to pick up your books or if you would like them delivered to you. If you prefer delivery, please provide a shipping address.

The Reading List

The works chosen for the upcoming year will be used as case for group discussion. They are:

September: David Brooks, Road to Character (2015)

Brooks continues to delight and challenge readers with his wit and wisdom in his latest book comprised in part of biographical sketches that illuminate the question, what makes a well lived life? The author confesses, “I wrote this book not sure I could follow the road to character, but I wanted at least to know what the road looks like and how other people have trodden it.”


October: William Shakespeare, King Lear (1606)

Chosen to coincide with the Great Lakes Theater production (October 2 through November 1), this Shakespearian tragedy is considered by some to be his finest achievement. It is the tale of an elderly monarch who descends into madness after rewarding his treacherous, flattering daughters and their craven husbands, but turns his back on his loyal child Cordelia. The play resonates with probing insights into family relations, and the nature of suffering.


November: Marilynne Robinson, Lila (2014)

Robinson, arguably one of the greatest living novelists of our times, returns us to the town of Gilead in this powerful story of a girl living a life on the fringes of society.  Suffering, abandonment, forgiveness, rescue, and ultimately the question of whether one actually wants or can be rescued are the universal themes explored in this award winning novel.


December: Plato, The Last Days of Socrates (403 BC); Bible: Ecclesiasticus (circa 190 BC)

In The Apology, Plato uses his dialogues to tell the story of the trial of Socrates as he defends himself against the charges of heresy and corruption of youth.  In the Crito, Socrates friend, Crito, has come to help him escape but Socrates counters Crito's arguments, choosing to stay in prison and accept his sentence of death. Does Socrates offer us a portrait of a well lived life?

Ecclesiasticus, properly known as the Wisdom of Sirach, is similar to other Hebrew wisdom books. Advice on a wide variety of life topics in no particular order, and poems extolling wisdom and the Lord as the source of wisdom comprise the book. While the Catholic Church adopted the book into its official canon at the Council of Trent 1546, most Protestant and Jewish sects reject the book.


January: Movie Night: Schindler’s List (1993)

In this Oscar-winning film, Stephen Spielberg adapts Thomas Kenneally’s 1982 biography of a self-absorbed, hedonistic German manufacturer whose goal of exploiting the Nazi war machine for his own profit is irrevocably changed by his contact with his Jewish laborers.


February: Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)

This 1927 novel is a fictionalized telling of the life of the first archbishop of the New Mexico territory, a French priest sent in the early 1850s to the desolate southwest, only recently taken by the US from Mexico. Cather blends episodes of what seems like futility with Fr. Latour’s faith and warmth, and exquisite descriptions of the (warm!) desert.


March: Maya Angelou, Letters to My Daughter (2008)

In a series of essays addressed to the daughter she never had, poet and memoirist Maya Angelou tells her own story and imparts the wisdom of her years of struggle and achievement.


April:  Randy Pausch,  The Last Lecture (2008)

Knowing that his life would be lost to pancreatic cancer, Carnegie Mellon computer science professor Randy Pausch videotaped a “last lecture” for his three small children, and then expanded it to a collection of essays on living with purpose, energy and joy.


Frequently Asked Questions

What sets these books apart from others?

These books have literally "changed the world." Repeatedly, alumni and others tell us the part of their college education they valued the most (or, maybe more accurately, came to value as they advanced in their careers and lives) was the liberal arts courses where they confronted great questions—what constitutes the good life and what is my responsibility to myself, to my professional peers and those who work with me, to others and to society. How can these questions be answered? Issues like these are at the core of the seminar series, though the intent is not to provide pat answers, but to provoke deep thinking about core issues that continue to confront our society through the lens of some of the greatest works in our philosophical, political and literary heritage.

How were these books selected?

Much time and effort went into this selection with the thought of how they relate to the conditions faced in lives today. You've probably heard people refer to them but weren't comfortable because you lack familiarity with them. Here is your opportunity to become acquainted or reacquainted with this powerful literature. By attending this seminar, you'll be able to discuss and reflect on key aspects of the works because you know them. You will be "well-read."

Sitting down alone with many of these books and selected readings may be a pleasant pastime, but more is to be gained studying them with a group of peers who offer interpretations and ideas that you may not have considered. Take a moment to review what this seminar offers. See if you don't agree that this is a unique opportunity for those who appreciate fine literature to meet on a regular basis and discuss how these works shaped the world.


For additional information contact Tina Jurcisin at 216.373.6520 or tjurcisin@ndc.edu.


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