February 14: Nicole Carpenter – Hidden Histories of Connecticut’s Indigenous and Black Communities
Many Americans misunderstand the history of their Indigenous and Black communities. In this presentation, Nicole Carpenter, Programs and Collections Director of the Westport Museum for History & Culture, uses primary sources and objects from the Museum’s collections, as well as other statewide resources, to relate true stories about those who were enslaved and fought for their own freedom. Tales of community bonds are continuously being uncovered to reveal the hidden truths of the First Peoples of North America as well as those kidnapped from their own Native lands.
Nicole is a museum professional with 10 years of experience in exhibition design and curation, collections management, and museum education in cultural organizations. She joined the Westport Museum for History & Culture as Programs and Collections Director in 2016. She received a BA degree from Castleton University and a Master’s degree in Museum Studies from Syracuse University.
Dr. Francis Coan – The Road to the 18th Amendment: Temperance and Prohibition in America, 1820-1920
Francis Michael Coan, PhD, of Tunxis Community College will discuss the ubiquity of alcohol production and consumption in early American history. He will introduce the genesis and evolution of the US temperance and prohibition movements as well as the motivations, goals, and strategies of temperance and prohibition advocates. Key events, individuals, and groups, such as the Second Great Awakening, Neal Dow, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and the Anti-Saloon League, will be examined.
The great-grandson of Irish immigrants, Francis was born and raised in Bristol, Connecticut, where his family has resided since 1906. He grew up in a household full of books, toy soldiers, and plastic models of World War II aircraft and armored fighting vehicles (most of which he built). He holds a BA in Geography and an MA in History from Central Connecticut State University, and a PhD in History from the University of Connecticut. Primarily a military historian, he wrote his dissertation on the origins and early history of the Connecticut National Guard and has published a number of encyclopedia entries and book reviews on military topics. Francis has taught history, American government, and geography at Tunxis Community College since 1991, chairing the Social Sciences and History Department from 2007 – 2019. He is currently President of the Tunxis Professional Staff Organization and the college’s elected representative to the system-wide Faculty Advisory Committee.
January 24: Mark G. Contreras – The Growing Role of Public Media in Serving Local Communities
As traditional providers of local news and information contract, public media providers have grown to fill in parts of the void left by legacy organizations. Connecticut Public, the state’s primary public media organization for radio, television, and digital content, continues to grow. The organization is embarked upon a multi-year initiative to expand local journalism, local entertainment, and children’s programming in the communities of Fairfield County.
Mark G. Contreras currently serves as President and CEO of Connecticut Public, the parent company of Connecticut Public Television (also known as CPTV) and Connecticut Public Radio (also known as WNPR). He has held top leadership roles at major local media companies, leading the newspaper and digital businesses for Pulitzer, Inc. and the E.W. Scripps Company. Mark also served as CEO of Calkins Media, a television, newspaper, and digital media company based in Bucks County, Pennsylvania; and as Chairman of the News Media Alliance and the American Press Institute. He currently is on the boards of The Groundtruth Project (home of Report for America), Highlights for Children, and Woodward Communications, Inc. Mark holds a Bachelors degree in history from The University of Chicago and an MBA from The Harvard Business School.
Dan Woog – 06880: An Inside View
Nearly every Westporter wakes up with Dan Woog – or at least, his “06880” blog. Since 2009, Dan has chronicled all things Westport: current events and controversies, history, interesting people, great organizations (like Y’s Women), and bad parking jobs. On January 10, Dan will pull back the curtain of “06880” and describe to the Y’s Women exactly how “Westport meets the world.”
Dan is a lifelong Westporter. A graduate of Staples High School and Brown University, he’s a full-time freelance writer. He has published 17 books and written thousands of magazine and newspaper stories. Since 2009 he has published “06880,” the local blog with the tagline “Where Westport meets the world.” In his spare time, Dan is the head boys soccer coach at Staples High School and an LGBTQ activist. He speaks nationally on LGBTQ issues, particularly the intersection of sexuality and sports.
Rabbi Greg Wall, ‘The Making of a Jazz Rabbi’
Rabbi Greg Wall, currently the Rabbi of Beit Chaverim Synagogue in Westport, will share the fascinating story of his voyage back to his ancient spiritual roots through his love affair with music. Together with live and recorded examples, he will give highlights of his travels through time and community, creating a life that embraces the nexus of art and religion.
A Jewish artist, thinker, teacher, and student with a non-traditional background and equally unique current professional life, the rabbinate is a midlife addition to Greg’s journey. And although he is a modern but traditionally observant Jew, he does not align with any particular Orthodox rabbinic group, choosing to mix freely between and study within centrist, liberal, and ultra-Orthodox circles.
Rabbi Wall was raised as a functionally illiterate Jew and opted out of Jewish communal life after his Bar Mitzvah, as did most of his peers. Drawn to music, he graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music and moved to New York in the early 1980s to pursue a career as a jazz saxophonist and composer. As a result of a remarkable set of occurrences, he began to explore his Jewish roots, married, became traditionally observant, and raised three children within the day school system. He began a study of traditional texts – at first casual, later in-depth – and in 2006 received the first of three Orthodox rabbinic ordinations.
During that time, Rabbi Wall developed an international performing and recording career combining his passions for Judaism and Jazz improvisation. His ensemble, Hasidic New Wave, toured extensively throughout North America and Europe, appearing at many of the world’s top music festivals and garnering critical acclaim. He then formed the ensemble Later Prophets and released an eponymously titled recording exploring the prophecies of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Malachi, followed by HaOrot: The Lights of Rav Kook, featuring original compositions accompanying dramatic readings of the mystical poetry of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook.
As Rabbi of Beit Chaverim Synagogue in Westport since 2013, he has continued his musical activities while working hard to bring Torah into the lives of his congregants and community members. He has released four CDs with Zion80 and produced the Jazz Rabbi Series in Westport since 2015.