Monadnock Lyceum to begin yet another season

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/19/2019 9:17:58 PM

When the Peterborough Lyceum was founded in 1829 by Rev. Abiel Abbot, it was part of a movement to provide opportunities for those in search of expanded knowledge.

Unlike its counterparts though, it was free for all instead of others in New England that charged membership dues and were really only meant for those with the financial ability to attend.

The Lyceum had its ups and downs over the years, but was revitalized in 1970 and is one of the few remaining in this part of the country. Now known as the Monadnock Summer Lyceum, the weekly program is set to begin another season on June 30 with Jeff Clements and his presentation, Equal Citizens or Oligarchy: New Hampshire and the Cross-partisan Movement for the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Lyceum is held on Sunday mornings at the Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church at 11 a.m. through Aug. 25, only taking one week off in observance of MacDowell Colony’s Medal Day, the second Sunday of August.

Abbot also founded the Peterborough Town Library – the first free public library in the country – and saw the importance of everyone having access to information.

“This was an opportunity for all people to become inspired and educated,” said Mary Vallier-Kaplan, chair of the Lyceum. “Like the library, (Abbot) felt all people should have access to knowledge and information.”

And the Lyceum has continued to use that as a model for its weekly programs. They are always free and topics are chosen by a group of volunteers that seek to provide audiences with the issues and subjects that are of the most significant importance in today’s world. They begin choosing topics in October and then seek out speakers from around the country to invite. They try to have something for everybody.

“We try to look toward the trends of the future,” Vallier-Kaplan said.

This season has a musical presentation with Leonard Matczynski, director of Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music in Nelson, and his program, Playing for Peace through Chamber Music, on July 7. Richard Van Wickler, superintendent of the Cheshire County Department of Corrections, will discuss the American correctional system and highlight its impact at local and national levels on July 28.

Peterborough author and illustrator Lita Judge will talk about Mary Shelley (the creator of Frankenstein) and the life she lived the first Sunday in August. There’s also Abdi Nor Iftin and his extraordinary story of leaving his native Somalia with Call Me American: My Long Journey from Somalia to Maine on July 14 and James Waller, A Troubled Sleep: Risk and Resilience in Contemporary Northern Ireland (July 21). On Aug. 18, Debby Irving will share her own struggles to understand racism and the sources of racial tensions, with the goal of helping others move forward in their own thinking, talking, and behaviors centered around her book, “Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race.”

“It’s important to have issues and topics that people are wondering about,” Vallier-Kaplan said.

And to cap off the season, Lauret Savoy discusses how her life and work draw from her need to put the eroded world into language, to remember fragmented pasts into present with Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape on Aug. 25.

“We also look for a mix of diversity with our speakers.” Vallier-Kaplan said.

Each week begins at 10:30 a.m. with a half-hour concert followed by the 40-minute presentation from the guest speaker. There are no visuals used in the programs.

“It’s really the spoken word that’s conveying the message,” Vallier-Kaplan said.

To end the weekly topic, audience members get a chance to seek out more information through a 15-minute Q & A. There’s also a reception that follows, which allows for one-on-one conversations.

“The questions and answers are just as important as the presentation,” Vallier-Kaplan said.

For Vallier-Kaplan, she knows first-hand the impact the speakers can have as before she got involved, she used to drive from Hollis on many occasions.

“It’s a special experience for people to have this opportunity,” Vallier-Kaplan said. “It may open a new place for you in your life.”

Within a week of each speaker, the Lyceum puts out a podcast on its website for those who could not make it.

For more information about the upcoming speakers, visit

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