Aug. 29, 2017
NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) announces its line-up of fall speakers this year will include Jeffrey Toobin, senior analyst for CNN and staff writer for The New Yorker, and multiple Emmy Award-winner Byron Pitts, co-anchor of ABC’s “Nightline.”

MCLA’s annual fall lectures are free and open to the public.

Toobin, a political expert who also has expertise on the media and the law, frequently is featured on CNN. He will be the featured presenter at the Seventh Annual Michael S. and Kitty Dukakis Public Policy Lecture, which is made possible through the generosity of the Ruth Proud Charitable Trust. He will present “Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court” at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 16, in the MCLA Church Street Center’s Eleanor Furst Roberts Auditorium.

On Wednesday, Oct. 18, Pitts will deliver MCLA’s Hardman Lecture, at 7 p.m. in the MCLA Church Street Center’s Eleanor Furst Roberts Auditorium. This lecture event, “Mass Media and Democratic Governance: The American Experience,” is made possible through the generosity of the Hardman Family Endowment. A book signing will follow Pitts’ lecture.

Other fall lecture series speakers will include award-winning author Jana Laiz, who will discuss her book, “Weeping Under This Same Moon,” at the First Year Experience (FYE) Community Reading event, to be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 5, in the MCLA Church Street Center’s Eleanor Furst Roberts Auditorium. Seating will be limited. After the lecture, Laiz will sign copies of her book.

In addition, Joanna Ballantine, vice president of Trustees of Reservations for the western region, will present the Elizabeth and Lawrence Vadnais Environmental Issues Lecture on Thursday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. in Murdock Hall, in the Sammer Dennis Room (218). She will speak on "A Century of Preserving Nature and Culture for Future Generations; What’s Next?"

Jeffrey Toobin

The author of critically acclaimed best sellers, Toobin delved into the historical, political and personal inner workings of the Supreme Court and its justices in his books, “The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court” and “The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court.”

Toobin’s most recent, best-selling book is “American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst” (August 2016). Through more than 100 interviews and thousands of previously sealed secret documents, he examines the 1974 kidnapping of Patty Hearst, granddaughter of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, by the Symbionese Liberation Army.

In addition, Toobin’s book, “The Run of His Life: The People vs. O. J. Simpson,” was the basis for the acclaimed mini-series on FX, starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., John Travolta and Sarah Paulson.

Byron Pitts

Pitts, an anchor and the chief national correspondent at ABC, previously was the chief national correspondent for CBS’s “Evening News with Katie Couric.” He was also the lead correspondent for CBS at Ground Zero immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks, and won an Emmy for his coverage.

A news veteran with more than 20 years of experience, Pitts also covered the war in Afghanistan, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the military buildup in Kuwait, and the refugee crisis in Kosovo, among other news. He realized a life-long goal when he was named as a contributing correspondent to CBS’s “60 Minutes” in 2009.

Pitts recently released his second book, “Be the One: Six True Stories of Teens Overcoming Hardship with Hope,” which brings the struggles and triumphs of six everyday heroes to teens, encouraging all to be the source of inspiration in their own lives and to appreciate the lives of others around them.

His other awards include a national Emmy Award for his coverage of the Chicago train wreck of 1999 and a National Association of Black Journalists Award. In addition, Pitts is the recipient of four Associated Press awards and six regional Emmy Awards.

Jana Laiz

Laiz will kick off the lecture series with a Community Reading about “Weeping under This Same Moon,” which explores the true story of what happens when two young women from very different cultures connect across difference. Written from the perspectives of both Mei, a Vietnamese refugee, and Hannah, an American high school student, this year’s community reading addresses themes central to our liberal arts mission and broader democracy.

A believer in the power of individuals to make a difference, Laiz is a combination of storyteller, teacher and activist. She was a caseworker at The International Rescue Committee, working in refugee resettlement, and the co-author of “A Free Woman on God’s Earth” The True Story of Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman, The Slave Who Won Her Freedom, which recently was named a New York Reads 365 Reading List Selection and has been optioned for the screen.

Laiz lives in the Berkshires, and is a Writer-In-Residence at Herman Melville’s Berkshire home, Arrowhead.

Joanna Ballantine

Ballantine’s role is to oversee the stewardship, business and enterprise performance, engagement and visitor services and field operations for Western Massachusetts. This region includes 50 iconic and scenic properties, from mountains to farms to public gardens including collections and historic houses.

She also serves as the internal and external leader for The Trustees’ throughout the Berkshires, Pioneer Valley, Central Massachusetts, Charles River Valley and Andover regions of Massachusetts. These properties serve thousands of visitors and generate significant revenue that helps support the overall mission of The Trustees.

Since joining The Trustees, Joanna has worked to expand the organization’s mission and impact in the Western region, using its many iconic, natural, agricultural and cultural properties as platforms to engage new members, visitors, and supporters.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is the Commonwealth's public liberal arts college and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. MCLA promotes excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship. MCLA graduates are prepared to be practical problem solvers and engaged, resilient global citizens.

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