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The Intellectual Life of a City

by Pamela Davies

May 5,2006

Wisdom begins in wonder.” ~ Socrates

At the heart of great cities are great universities. As we look at Charlotte and the many and varied institutions of higher education in our city, Charlotte is indeed a great city. We are blessed with a variety of educational institutions, each offering a unique and valuable educational path. With cutting edge research and technology at UNC- Charlotte, culinary and hospitality degrees at Johnson & Wales, technical and training fields at Central Piedmont Community College, and the long standing liberal arts traditions at Davidson College, Johnson C. Smith and Queens University of Charlotte, there is every kind of education available in and around Charlotte. Although Charlotte is not yet seen as a “college town” like Boston or Chicago, we do have opportunities as citizens of Charlotte to experience the academic life offered by these colleges and universities. All of these Charlotte institutions offer programs, speakers and events that explore a variety of cultural, political and social issues.

Queens has long believed that a city college should not be an ivory tower on a hill, removed from the hustle and bustle of real life. A university should be part of the city, and open its doors to all citizens, not just those students fortunate enough to walk the halls and attend classes. I recently heard Charlotte Business Woman of the Year Winner Christie Taylor encourage us to be more curious in life. We can certainly engage our curiosity with the wealth of cultural, athletic and academic programs offered by the colleges and universities in town.

We can go to lunch at Johnson and Wales and enjoy the delicious fruits of the labor of the next generation of chefs. We can enjoy an opera in the new Dale F. Halton Theater at CPCC. We can hear activists like Judy Shephard at Davidson College and we can cheer on Division I athletes at UNC-Charlotte.

Charlotte Magazine just named the Learning Society at Queens University of Charlotte a "Best of the Best" Award Recipient for Best Lecture Series. The Learning Society is a group of leading Charlotteans whose membership fees provide the major funding for a national speaker series, providing Queens students and the Charlotte community with the opportunity to interact with experts on important contemporary issues and topics. This year the Learning Society hosted author John Irving, journalist Charles Krauthammer, and will bring David McCullough and Bill Moyers to Charlotte next year. Learning Society members take very seriously their mission to bring acclaimed speakers to Charlotte for a learning experience that might otherwise not be possible for our students and citizens.

As part of Queens University’s Sesquicentennial celebration of 150 years in Charlotte, a variety of activities and events are planned for the intellectual life at Queens and the city. The Friends of Library hosts Joyce Carol Oates; The Friends of Music will bring The Julliard String Quartet and the Chatham County Line blue grass group to our city. The Friends of Art sponsored feminist artist Judy Chicago this spring at Queens. The Norris and Kathryn Preyer Lecture series brings a speaker on the liberal arts to campus and the William and Margaret Witherspoon Lecture series focuses on the intersection between science and religion.

I encourage everyone to be a citizen of a great city and continue to learn, be curious and engage your intellect. While we may have left behind the classrooms of our childhood, we are never too old to keep learning and to participate in the life of the mind. The intellectual life of a city is an important part of our growth as a world-class community. As citizens we must engage in public debate and discuss together as a community those issues that face us and our nation together. At the heart of the liberal arts is the ability to reason and debate. We owe it to ourselves and the favorite teachers of our past to keep learning. We can build the intellectual capital of Charlotte by the lively engagement of our minds.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” - William Butler Yeats

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