Emilio DeGrazia, ’63
1999 Elkin R. Isaac Lecture
Professor of English at Winona State University
7:30 pm, Wednesday, April 14, 1999
Bobbitt Visual Arts Auditorium
Emilio DeGrazia holds master”s and doctoral degrees in English from Ohio State University. He has lived in Minnesota since 1969, and is currently a professor of English at Winona State University.
DeGrazia says he began his career as an author “in the middle of [one] night in 1973.” That night produced a first draft of “The Enemy,” one of the stories included in Enemy Country, DeGrazia”s first published book. Enemy Country was selected by Anne Tyler for a Writer”s Choice Award and chosen as one of Library Journal”s “Best Small Press Books of 1984”; another collection of stories, Seventeen Grams of Soul, won a Minnesota Book Award. DeGrazia has also published more than 100 works of fiction, poetry, and essays in various anthologies and literary journals. He is the author of two published novels, Billy Brazil and A Canticle for Bread and Stones, has co-edited the anthology 26 Minnesota Writers, and is the founder of the literary journal Great River Review. A third short story collection, Born-Again Blues, is awaiting publication.
Of his craft, DeGrazia says: “I”m driven by fairly old-fashioned ideas about the writing life: That one becomes a writer by discovering that one has something to “say” that the result should be at once story, sermon, and song; that one should genuinely want to communicate, present a vision capable of evoking a passionate response; …and that good art has only one legitimate raison d'etre, the clarification of life for the purpose of enhancing it.”
Kristen Verderame, ’90
2010 Elkin R. Isaac Lecture
CEO and Founder of Pondera International LLC
7:30 pm, Weds., April 21, 2010
Towsley Lecture Hall/Norris 101
Kristen Verderame is CEO and Founder of Pondera International LLC, a consultancy formed to assist
venture capital firms ensure and increase the value of their investments. Ms. Verderame has held a
number of consultative and strategic business roles over the last several years.
Ms. Verderame spent the bulk of her professional career in a variety of roles within BT
(British Telecom) Group plc. Her last role was Vice President and General Counsel for the
company’s US operations, where she was a leading member of the management team. During her tenure,
Ms. Verderame led the company’s Legal Department, and was also responsible for various operational
areas such as Procurement, Security and BT Federal (BT’s US Government sales organization).
Ms. Verderame holds several advisory roles outside of her day-to-day professional
responsibilities. She has been actively involved in the network of British-American organizations
in the US and UK for years, and currently serves as the general counsel to the British American
Business Council, the international umbrella organization that represents over 2,500 British and
American businesses across 25 chapters in the US and the UK. She is also past president of the
Washington, D.C. chapter. Ms. Verderame currently serves as the general counsel to the
European-American Business Council, and as a Non-Executive Director for UK Trade & Investment.
She holds membership in the Federal Communications Bar Association, the American Bar Association
and the bars of the State of Illinois, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the Federal Circuit, and the U.S. Court of International Trade. Ms. Verderame is an
accomplished public speaker, and has presented in numerous fora on a variety of international
telecommunications policy, security, trade, employment and business issues.
Ms. Verderame received her Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School, and her
Bachelors of Arts degree from Albion College, Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, with Honors.
James Gignac, ’01
2009 Elkin R. Isaac Alumni Lecture
Midwest director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign
“New Energy for America: From ‘Liberal Arts at Work’ to Moving Beyond
7:30 pm, Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Towsley Lecture Hall/Norris 101
James Gignac currently serves as Midwest director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. Based in Chicago, Gignac helps coordinate and manage the campaign’s legal, organizing, and communications activities across a fourteen-state region. His principal focus is on supporting the campaign’s goal to eliminate one-third of the nation’s global warming emissions that come from the use of coal to generate energy by opposing new coal plant proposals, accelerating the retirement of existing coal-fired power plants, and driving investment away from coal and into clean energy solutions like energy efficiency, solar power, and wind power. Gignac’s day-to-day work consists of a varied and interesting mix of strategic planning, legal coordination, messaging, organizing, and policy advocacy designed to help move America beyond coal and into the clean energy economy of the future.
After graduating from Albion with majors in history and political science, Gignac earned his law degree from Harvard Law School in 2004. While in law school, Gignac served as executive director of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, was elected president of the Harvard Environmental Law Society, and received a Dean’s Award for Community Leadership. After leaving Harvard, he spent a year serving as a judicial law clerk for the Alaska Supreme Court. Gignac then returned to the Midwest and worked as an associate in the environmental practice group with the law firm of Mayer Brown LLP in Chicago. He joined the Sierra Club in his current capacity in June 2008.
This will be Gignac’s second presentation at an Elkin R. Isaac Symposium. As an Albion College senior in spring 2001, he presented his thesis entitled “Citizen Environmental Activism: Three Case Studies in the Albion, Michigan Area.” The thesis consisted of an analysis of three different opportunities Gignac had during his time at Albion to work with and study citizen involvement in environmental issues as a member of the Environmental Institute’s interdisciplinary Rice Creek Project and Professor Wesley Dick’s Environmental History course. Gignac received a Jenkins Award for his thesis work and was also named the outstanding graduate in both American history and political science in 2001. In his current role with the Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization, Gignac continues to work with and for volunteer activists seeking to protect their local environment and address the critical challenge of climate change.
The Institute for the Study of the Environment is a co-sponsor of this lecture.
Jim Beck, ’97
2008 Elkin R. Isaac Alumni Lecture
Program Analyst in the Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation (PPE)
“From Albion to Africa and Back Again: Reflections on Alternative
Careers in Science”
7:30 pm, Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Towsley Lecture Hall/Norris 101
Jim Beck is currently a program analyst in the Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation (PPE) in the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He plays a technical support role or two high-level advisory bodies (NOAA’s Science Advisory Board and Research Council) that guide NOAA on research matters concerning climate modeling, weather forecasting, ecosystem management, ocean and coastal resource management, and related issues.
Over the last 10 years, Beck has focused on international natural resource management issues in Africa with a variety of leading science-based environmental organizations, initiatives, and government agencies. From 2003 to 2007, Beck worked on land-use planning and ecosystem management projects in central Africa, first for Global Forest Watch at the World Resources Institute (Washington, D.C.) and later for the Wildlife Conservation Society (Republic of Congo). He also worked at Cornell University, where he was a research assistant on a socio-economic study related to park management in Gabon for the World Wildlife Fund.
Following his graduation from Albion, Beck served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Gabon for two years, assisting with a rural aquaculture development project, and then spent a third year with the Peace Corps as a researcher collaborating with the World Wildlife Fund and the Gabonese Ministry of Forest and Water. He has also taught at the University of Maryland.
Beck’s career experiences also include management of “think tank” programs seeking to strategically influence environmental policy and practice, multi-stakeholder coalition building, and grassroots rural development.
He received a B.A. from Albion College, with a biology major and environmental science concentration, and a master’s in sustainable development and conservation biology from the University of Maryland at College Park. While an undergraduate, he had a special interest in marine biology, and conducted research with Albion biologist Jeffrey Carrier and at the Duke University Marine Laboratory in Beaufort, N.C. He participated in the Isaac Symposium in 1997 with a presentation on “Male Nurse Shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum) Movement in Relation to Mating Activities.”