April 16, 2009 — The Last Lecture Series is an annual tradition at the University of Virginia, providing a forum for distinguished faculty members to lecture to students as if it were their last time to do so, on a topic of their choosing. The content of the lectures varies, ranging from emotional to entertaining, but they are often moving and inspiring.
The 2009 lectures will be presented Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Dome Room of the Rotunda. This year's lecturers are Claudrena Harold, assistant professor of history, and John Quale, assistant professor of architecture.
The lectures are free and open to the public, but tickets are required. Those who are interested in attending but do not already have a ticket should contact the event organizer, Ian Flanagan (firstname.lastname@example.org) to add your name to the waiting list
When assistant professor of architecture John Quale was asked to give a "Last Lecture," he said he was both humbled and inspired.
In his talk, "Ten Years From Now," Quale will explore issues of legacy; specifically, how we spend our time in relation to the broader cultural context of social and environmental issues. He will also discuss the emergence of "design activism" as a way of framing an important role for today's generation of designers.
How Quale has spent his time is illustrative of his topic. In 2000, shortly after joining the faculty of U.Va.'s School of Architecture (where he had earned his master of architecture degree in 1993), he had a vision of how architecture and public service could serve a common goal.
He developed the interdisciplinary program ecoMOD, a design/build/evaluate project that creates sustainable, prefabricated, affordable housing. To date, ecoMOD has produced five affordable housing units for Habitat for Humanity and Piedmont Housing Alliance. Along the way, ecoMOD has introduced more than 300 architecture, engineering, landscape architecture, architectural history and planning students to the notion that housing designs for an underserved segment of the population must be deeply influenced by ecological and climate concerns.
"I feel it is an important part of my role as a designer and teacher to look for new ways architecture can serve communities by providing for the needs of today while at the same time incorporating sustainable building practices that support stewardship of the earth for future generations," Quale said.
Harold will speak on "The Love Ethic in the Black Southern Humanist Tradition."
"I was shocked and surprised" to be asked to speak, Harold said. "It is an honor and a tradition, and I am becoming more aware of the responsibility."
Harold is an assistant professor of history and African-American Studies with the Department of History and the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies. Her research and teaching focus on African-American social and cultural history, black nationalist and Pan-African movements and labor politics.
In selecting her lecture topic, Harold cited Dr. Martin Luther King's exhortation to love when surrounded by hate and author James Baldwin's belief that people have a responsibility to love. She wants to connect these historic viewpoints to ongoing struggles.
"It is a chance to reflect on our trajectory and achievements and how we get into certain places and spaces," she said.
Harold is a native of Jacksonville, Fla., and she attended Temple University in Philadelphia on a basketball scholarship. She performed her graduate work at Notre Dame and has been teaching at U.Va. for five years.
Harold is the author of "The Rise and Fall of the Garvey Movement in the Urban South," a detailed examination of the Universal Negro Improvement Association's rise, maturation and eventual decline in the urban South between 1918 and 1942. She is currently working on a book about the African-American renaissance during the 1920s in the South.