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Speaker Biographies: Fall 2013

Kathy Peiss

Kathy Peiss is the Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of American History at Penn, where she teaches courses on modern American cultural history and the history of American sexuality, women, and gender.  Her research has examined the history of working women; working-class and interracial sexuality; leisure, style, and popular culture; the beauty industry in the U.S. and abroad; and print culture and cultural policy during World War II.  She is particularly interested in the ways that commerce and culture have shaped the everyday life and popular beliefs of Americans across time.

Peiss is the author of Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York (1986) and Hope in a Jar: The Making of America's Beauty Culture (1998), which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award and named one of Amazon's 1999 top ten books in Women's Studies.  Her most recent book is Zoot Suit: The Enigmatic Career of an Extreme Style (2011), which received the 2012 Millia Davenport Publication Award of the Costume Society of America.  Other publications include Passion and Power: Sexuality in History, co-edited with Christina Simmons (1989); Men and Women: A History of Gender, Costume, and Power, co-authored with Barbara Clark Smith in conjunction with a Smithsonian Institution exhibit (1989); Love Across the Color Line: The Letters of Alice Hanley to Channing Lewis, co-edited with Helen Horowitz (1996); Major Problems in the History of American Sexuality (2001); and articles in Daedalus, Library Trends, Business History Review, Enterprise and Society, Genders, American Literary History, and Social Problems.

Peiss has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, NEH, ACLS, Smithsonian Institution, Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.  She has been elected a Fellow of the Society of American Historians and is a member of the Society’s Executive Board.  She has also lectured at the University of Sydney as a Fulbright Senior Specialist.  In addition to writing and teaching, she has served as a consultant to museums, archives, and public history projects, and appeared in the documentary films New York and Miss America.

Her current research concerns American librarians, book collectors, and information specialists in the World War II era, a project spurred by the discovery of the hidden life of a family member.  It explores the uses and meaning of print culture in a time of war and devastation, and addresses the history of open-source intelligence gathering, mass acquisition projects, the restitution of book collections, and the problems of cultural reconstruction.  A second long-term project is a cultural history of the mass middle class in the mid-twentieth century, its material culture, aesthetics, and sensibilities.

At Penn, Peiss served as Chair of the History Department from 2008 to 2011.  She is a member of the affiliated faculty of the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Program and the graduate group in the Department of History and Sociology of Science. She received the Ira H. Abrams Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching for Faculty in the School of Arts and Sciences in 2013.


Frances Negrón-Muntaner

Frances Negrón-Muntaner is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, and scholar. Born in Puerto Rico to a family of academics, Negrón-Muntaner’s work spans several fields, including cinema, literature, cultural criticism, and politics. Her education anticipates these various interests: She obtained a Bachelor’s in sociology at the University of Puerto Rico (1986), then a Masters in film and anthropology at Temple University, Philadelphia (1991, 1994), and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Rutgers University, New Brunswick (2000). For her work as a scholar and filmmaker, Negrón-Muntaner has received Ford, Truman, Scripps Howard, Rockefeller, and Pew fellowships. Major foundations and public television funding sources have also supported her work.

Since the late 1980s, Negrón-Muntaner’s work has been considered an important resource in addressing sexuality, colonialism, nationalism, and migration in Puerto Rican/Latino diasporic communities. In 1994, she released the award-winning film Brincando el charco: Portrait of a Puerto Rican (1995 Whitney Biennial, Audience Award at the 1995 San Juan CinemaFest and a Merit Selection at the 1995 Latin American Studies Association Film Festival), the first Puerto Rican film to examine issues of race, gender and homophobia in the context of migration. Three years later, Negrón-Muntaner co-edited the groundbreaking Puerto Rican Jam: Rethinking Colonialism and Nationalism, a collection that questioned the accepted formula that nationalism was the cure of colonialism. During the same year, she wrote the first draft of what was to become “The Radical Statehood Manifesto,” a political intervention that sought to challenge conventional ideas of sovereignty in the Caribbean. In 2004, Negrón-Muntaner published Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture (CHOICE Award 2004), a collection of essays that included “Jennifer’s Butt,” a landmark text for the discussion of contemporary U.S. popular culture.

Negrón-Muntaner has also contributed to the founding of programs and institutions to disseminate the work of Latino filmmakers and intellectuals. She is the founder of Miami Light Project's Filmmakers Workshop, the organizer/fundraiser of several conferences on Puerto Rican/Latino affairs, and a founding board member and former chair of NALIP, the National Association of Latino Independent Producers.

During her three-year tenure as NALIP's board chair, Negrón-Muntaner actively participated in the creation of the organization’s signature programs (the annual conference, Latino Producers Academy, and Latino Writers Lab). She has also been part of the leadership responsible for the organization’s transformation from a startup operation with a few hundred members in 1999 into the country’s most important Latino producer organization, with over a thousand members and a $1 million budget. For her work as a filmmaker, advocate, and scholar, she was named as one of the nation’s "100 Most influential Latinos" by Hispanic Business in 2005.

Negrón-Muntaner currently teaches at Columbia University's Department of English and Comparative Literature and at the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race. She divides her time between Miami and New York City.


Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein

Thomas Wilson Cathcart was born in 1940, graduated from Harvard College 1961. He attended various divinity schools, including the University of Chicago Divinity School, McCormick Theological Seminary, and Bangor Theological Seminary. He has worked with street gangs in Chicago, was once the chief operating officer of Mercy Hospital in Portland, Maine, and at another time managed a hospice for people with HIV/AIDS in Portland. With Klein, he is the author of Macho Meditations, Aristotle and an Aardvark Go to Washington, and the upcoming, Heidegger and a Hippo Walk through Those Pearly Gates.

Daniel Martin Klein was born in 1939, graduated from Harvard College 1961. He has worked as a writer for television comedies and quiz shows, writing jokes for such comedians as Flip Wilson, Lily Tomlin, and impressionist David Fry. He has also written 30 books, fiction and nonfiction, including a mystery series casting Elvis as a detective and co-invented the board game Group Therapy.

Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar – Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes is a book that explains basic philosophical concepts through classic jokes. Longtime friends, Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein, graduates of Harvard in philosophy, collaborated on the book. It has been translated into 20 languages and appeared on bestseller lists in the U.S., France, and Israel.

After majoring in philosophy at Harvard, Tom and Dan pursued the usual philosophical careers. Tom was a probation officer, worked with street gangs in Chicago, did similar work with doctors for Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and was COO of a hospital, all the while going to and dropping out of various divinity schools. His essay, “The Ontological Argument Works! (sort of)” appeared recently in Theology Today. Meantime, Dan wrote jokes for various comedians, including Flip Wilson and Lily Tomlin, designed stunts for Candid Camera, co-created the board game, ‘Group Therapy’, and then settled down to the literary life, ghost writing a best-selling sex manual and penning several thrillers and mysteries, including the Elvis Presley detective series. In addition to “Heidegger and a Hippo Walk through Those Pearly Gates,” Tom and Dan have written the New York Times bestseller, “Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar,” “Aristotle and an Aardvark Go to Washington,” and the politically-incorrect book of daily affirmations, “Macho Meditations.” Tom lives with his wife on Cape Cod, Dan with his wife in the Berkshire Mountains.
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Mark Wellman

Mark Wellman, 44, has been a mountaineer since the age of 12. Wellman has ascended over 50 Sierra Nevada peaks, including the French Alps. A freak accident on his descent of the Seven Gables in the John Muir Wilderness left him paralyzed from the waist down in 1982.

Mark has continued his love for climbing with the help of his climbing partner, Mike Corbett. In 1989, they made history with their ascent of the 3,000-foot face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. On September 4, 1991, Wellman and Corbett set out to conquer Yosemite's other big wall, Half Dome. Thirteen days later they reached the top of the 2,200 foot vertical Tis-Sa-Ack route on Half Dome

A former member of the United States Disabled Ski Team, competing in two Paralympics, Mark is also known for his extreme down hill skiing and white water kayaking adventures.

In the spring of 1993, Mark skied 50 miles, to be the first paraplegic to sit-ski across the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range with only the use of his arms. The Trans' Sierra crossing started at Ellery Lake, on the east side of the Sierra, ascended over the 10,000 foot Tioga Pass, and four days later ended at Crane Flat.

Mark earned a Park Management Certificate from West Valley College in Saratoga, California. From 1986-91 he worked as a full time Interpretive Ranger and was Director of the Disabled Access Program in Yosemite National Park.

The book Climbing Back, is Mark's autobiography. It is a story of his struggle to survive a disabling accident, to become a park ranger and an accomplished wheel-chair athlete, and ultimately to climb the sheer granite faces of El Capitan and Half Dome. He has designed 'adaptive' equipment and has developed programs to inspire and motivate others.

Mark’s passion for the outdoors has led him to document several videos on outdoor adventure, featuring physically disabled individuals enjoying outdoor sports and using their individual means of adaptation. The videos No Barriers, Beyond the Barriers and Wheels of Fire are filled with adventure, drama and inspiration. They include climbing, skiing, kayaking, sailing, surfing, diving and hang-gliding, and more. Every video is enhanced with outstanding music and lyrics, by musicians with varied disabilities.

In August of 1996, Mark demonstrated to the world an example of overcoming adversity. Honored by the Paralympic Committee, he ascended a 120-foot rope, with the flaming torch, and lit the cauldron for the Opening Ceremonies of the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta, Georgia.

On July 19, 1999, Mark made a repeat climb of El Capitan, which would be ten years later with climbing partner Mike Corbett. Called ‘Return to the Challenge’ his 10-year anniversary climb was completed in 11 days on a much more challenging route, The Nose.

Mark speaks for the Washington-based, Disabled Sports USA. He lends his name to the Governor's Committee on Employment for the Disabled, and is a consultant for the California's Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. He is also a member of the General Motors ‘Barrier Breakers’ Team and is an advisor for World T.E.A.M. Sports.

Mark Wellman lives in Northern California where he operates his business No Limits. Whether training for new wilderness adventures, or touring the country as a motivational speaker, Mark constantly strives to break down barriers. From college campuses to corporate boardrooms he has become a nationally known influence for the disabled and able-bodied alike. With his dynamic style and bold determination, Mark continues to encourage his audiences to fulfill their dreams by reaching for higher goals to success.


Harold Herzog

Harold Herzog has been investigating the complex psychology of our interactions with other species for more than two decades. He is particularly interested in how people negotiate real-world ethical dilemmas, and he has studied animal activists, cockfighters, animal researchers, and circus animal trainers. An award-winning teacher and researcher, he has written more than 100 articles and book chapters. His research has been published in journals such as Science, The American Psychologist, The Journal of the Royal Society, The American Scholar, New Scientist, Anthrozoös, BioScience, The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, and Animal Behavior. His work has been covered by Newsweek, Slate, Salon, National Public Radio, Scientific American, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune and many other newspapers.

Hal Herzog is Professor of Psychology at Western Carolina University and lives in the Smoky Mountains with his wife Mary Jean and their cat Tilly.

Hal’s blog - Animals and Us

Hal’s research and some web-accessible articles


Yul Kwon

Yul Kwon is the host of the PBS series, America Revealed.  Yul first rose to international acclaim in 2006, when he became the first Asian American to win the popular CBS reality show, Survivor.  He has since appeared on CNN as a special correspondent and is currently hosting LinkTV’s weekly news program, LinkAsia

Beyond his involvement in the media, Yul has had a multifaceted career that spans law, policy, business, and technology. Yul’s government experiences include serving as Deputy Chief of the FCC's Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, an adjunct instructor at the FBI Academy, a legislative aide to a U.S Senator, and a judicial clerk on the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.  In the private sector, Yul has held positions at Google, McKinsey & Company, Wiltshire & Grannis, and Venture Law Group.  

Yul is active in a wide range of charities, particularly those seeking to increase the number of minority bone marrow donors.  He is a board member of Becky's Fund and sits on the advisory boards of the Asian American Justice Center and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. 

Yul has been profiled in VIBE Magazine's annual Juice issue of people with power, People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive issue, and Entrepreneur Magazine.  He received his B.S. in Symbolic Systems from Stanford University, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he served on the editorial board of the Yale Law Journal.


Greg Sarris

Greg Sarris was born and raised in Santa Rosa, California. After graduating from Santa Rosa High School in 1970, he attended Santa Rosa Junior College, which prepared him to obtain his Bachelor’s Degree at UCLA. Graduating from UCLA in 1977 summa cum laude, Greg then went on to complete his graduate studies at Stanford University, earning two Master’s degrees in record time.

While working as a teaching assistant and doctoral candidate at Stanford, Greg was awarded the prestigious Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching, which is an award that is generally only given to full professors. Once Greg attained his PhD in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford in 1989, he worked as a full professor of English at UCLA, teaching American and Native American Literature, and Creative Writing from 1989 until 2001.

From 2001 to 2005 Greg then went on to become the Fletcher Jones Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at Loyola Marymount University. And from 2005 to present, Greg has held the Graton Rancheria Endowed Chair in Writing and Native American Studies at Sonoma State University.

Greg Sarris has published notable books, including; Keeping Slug Woman Alive: A Holistic Approach to American Indian Texts (1993), a widely anthologized collection of essays; Grand Avenue (1994), Greg’s highly acclaimed and awarded collection of short stories that was adapted for an HBO Miniseries of the same name, co-executive produced by Robert Redford. One of the most recent books by Greg Sarris, Watermelon Nights (1999) was widely celebrated and received rave reviews. It was even adapted for a play by the Santa Rosa Junior College Theatre Arts Department. Greg acted as editor (with Connie Jacobs and James Giles) on Teaching the Work of Louise Eldrich (2004), an approach to teaching world literature. Greg has also written plays for Pieces of the Quilt, Intersection Theatre, and the Mark Taper Forum.

Greg’s play “Mission Indians” opened at Intersection Theatre in San Francisco in February 2002. It went on to receive the 2003 Bay Area Theatre Critics Award for Best Script. He also co-produced, advised, and was featured in a sixteen part series on American literature for public television called, “American Passages”, which won the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Documentary in 2003. Greg’s collection of children stories (soon to be published as How A Mountain Was Made) was performed in 2012 by the Word for Word Performing Arts Company at Z Space in San Francisco. He has also written two pilot scripts for Showtime and one for HBO. Greg regularly works with the Sundance Institute (reviewing and revising scripts) where he helped develop a summer writing lab for American Indians interested in film writing. He also sits on several boards including, the National Video Project, and Word for Word Theatre, where he is Honorary President.

Greg is currently serving his eleventh term as Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, his tribe which was formerly known as the Federated Coast Miwok. Tribal Chairman Greg Sarris co-authored a bill, H.R. 5528, on behalf of his tribe, and on December 27th, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed this bill, restoring the Federated Coast Miwok as a recognized American Indian Tribe.

Greg now lives and works in his beloved Sonoma County.


Karen Tice

Karen Tice is an associate professor and chair of the department of gender and women’s studies and an associate professor of educational policy studies and her teaching and research interests include gender and education, media and popular culture, social movements, class, the body, economies of beauty and makeover, and feminist theory.

Dr. Tice has published articles in Feminist Studies, Journal of Women’s History, Gender & Society, Feminist Teacher, Journal of Appalachian Studies, and Genders and book chapters in edited collections including Mediating Faiths: Religion, Media, and Popular Culture, Bad Mothers: The Politics of Blame  in Twentieth-Century America, and Fighting Back in Appalachia: Traditions of Resistance and Change.

Dr. Tice’s first book Tales of Wayward Girls and Immoral Women: Case Records and the Professionalization of Social Work (Illinois, 1998) explored the surveillance, regulation, and refinement of working-class and immigrant girls’ and women’s bodies and behavior in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by white, middle-class social reformers, It focused on the micro-politics of class, narrative authority, and professional constructions of worthy and unworthy and respectability and degeneracy. 

Dr. Tice examined the themes of class, race, beauty, body discipline, and self-regulation in the contexts of higher education and student cultures in her recent book, Queens of Academe: Beauty Pageants, Student Bodies, and Campus Life (Oxford University Press, 2012) which was selected for the 2012 Critics Choice Book Award given by the American Educational Studies Association. (



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