Alumni Magazine

SPR-SUM 2017

The alumni magazine for Franklin Pierce University.

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8 PIERCE / SPRING 2017 RAVENINGS W illa Cather fell in love with New Hampshire, writing much of her best prose over two decades in a meadow near her Jaffrey summer haunt, including portions of her 1918 novel, "My Antonia." Cather's deep connection to the Monadnock region (Jaffrey's Old Burial Ground is her final resting place) is why English Professor Donna Decker knew that "My Antonia" would be ideal when Franklin Pierce became the first N.H. university to earn a $9,500 Big Read grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. "Not everybody gets this grant – it's a big deal," says Decker, who is committed to the idea of reading as a launch pad for civil discourse. "The book is timely," she adds. "It covers issues of immigration, mental illness, poverty, suicide. The dialogue in book groups can go anywhere. It's a beautiful format for community building." Hundreds of students and members of the surrounding area read passages from Cather's work while hiking up Mount Monadnock last fall. Others attended a graveside reading in Jaffrey. English major Nicole Boliver '17 appreciated the communal nature of the Big Read. The novel was distributed to readers, including Pierce students, senior citizens and Conant High School juniors, then Pierce English majors and University professors facilitated discussions. Sixty patrons of local public libraries checked it out. Decker estimates that roughly 500 people read Cather's novel. The Big Read, Decker asserts, helped build community because Pierce faculty and students purposefully sought out people not affiliated with the University, and invited them to campus for an exchange of ideas. In addition to the readings, Pierce hosted a film night, dramatic readings and lectures. "We consider ourselves a cultural center, but we wanted to put that to the test," Decker says. "We want to share what we know with the larger community and hear their wisdom in exchange." In one note of appreciation, a community member wrote to Decker, "I want you to do the whole thing (with a different book) every year!" Ten books sit on Decker's desk awaiting consideration for 2017. —Jana F. Brown Reading Big Community Engagement We consider ourselves a cultural center, but we wanted to put that to the test

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