It might be one of Winter Park’s best kept secrets — a unique opportunity for local residents that started a decade ago.
Rollins College recently announced the speakers for this year’s Winter Park Institute at Rollins College Speaker Series, which will give students, faculty, and local residents a chance to hear from great thinkers, celebrities and influential figures.
This year’s group of speakers includes Maggie Doyne, a philanthropist; Martha Nussbaum, a philosopher; Sean Baker, a filmmaker; Billy Collins, a poet; and Dr. M. Sanjayan, a conservationist.
“I’m really excited about the series this year,” said Gail Sinclair, executive director and scholar in residence at the Winter Park Institute at Rollins College. “It is very eclectic, and each of the speakers brings something really interesting and unique to the conversation.”
Previous years of the speaker series have featured major names, including Sir Paul McCartney of The Beatles; world-renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall; “Star Trek” actor George Takei; and all-time NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
This year’s group may not feature prominent actors and former athletes that regularly show up in headlines, but Sinclair said that it’s an intentional choice for the speaker series to go back to its roots: focusing on influential experts in various fields that aren’t household names.
“Some of the speakers are names that might not be recognized by the general public, but what’s exciting about that is bringing new names to the forefront for people who haven’t had a chance to hear about these people who are really innovative and interesting,” Sinclair said.
It starts with Maggie Doyne, who will speak at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, at the Tiedtke Concert Hall. Doyne founded BlinkNow, which provides quality education and a safe environment for women and children in Nepal. She was named CNN Hero of the Year in 2015.
“She took a gap year and backpacked throughout Europe and Asia and discovered her love of the Nepalese children and her desire to save them, to help them,” Sinclair said. “She wired home to get the money she had saved from babysitting through her high school years and purchased a piece of land and from that built this home and school for children that she has informally adopted. She’s become mother to some 50 or 60 Nepalese children.”
Martha Nussbaum will speak at the college at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 22, at the Bush Auditorium, bringing with her a unique body of work on moral and political theory, emotions, human rights and more. She recently spoke with “TIME” magazine about her new book, “The Monarchy of Fear: A Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis.”
“She brings a variety of very important current issues about politics and ethics and morality and our sensibilities about fear and who we are,” Sinclair said.
Filmmaker Sean Baker will speak at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, at Rollins College. Baker is best known for “The Florida Project,” an independent feature film whose title comes from an early name for the land Walt Disney purchased where Disney World and Epcot sit today. The film follows the relationship between a 6-year-old girl and her mother as they struggle to survive while living in the shadows of Disney World.
Returning to the speaker series with a discussion at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, at the Tiedtke Concert Hall is Billy Collins, a two-term U.S. Poet Laureate and distinguished senior fellow of the Winter Park Institute. He’s known as one of the most popular poets in America, and his work frequently lands on the “The New York Times” bestsellers list.
“His title is ‘What Poets Talk About When They Talk About Love,’ so I’m particularly excited about Billy’s collection of poets,” Sinclair said. “That will be a wonderful perspective of his work and work that relates to the subject of love.”
Dr. M. Sanjayan
The final speaker of this year’s series is Dr. M. Sanjayan, who will speak at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, 2019, at the Bush Auditorium. He’s the CEO and senior scientist for Conservation International, an American nonprofit that empowers societies to care for nature, global biodiversity and the well-being of humanity.
“He’s a scientist that has the charisma to create these documentaries that help humans visualize what’s happening in nature as a result of the connection between climate, humanity and nature,” Sinclair said. “He’s hoping to build awareness so that we might make changes that continue the human/nature relationship in a positive way for both.”