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More than the Sum of Its Parts

From the President
More than the Sum of Its Parts

What's your favorite part of the Wisconsin Academy? For me the answer varies with the moment—and where I am. When I'm reading Wisconsin People & Ideas I'm very much in the moment, marveling at the talent of the writers and artists whose work is in my hands. To be honest, I never really appreciated poems or short stories when I was an undergraduate like I do now. The quality of the writing by our Wisconsin authors is truly world class. You can feel something special when you read in the magazine a poem by Catherine Cofell (who, by the way, is from Appleton) or a story by Anthony Bukoski. The photos of Wisconsin taverns by Hudson-area resident Carl Corey in the recent summer issue of the magazine simply blew me away.

When I am on State Street in Madison, I invariably stop in at the James Watrous Gallery to bask in the brilliance of Wisconsin artists. True, artistic talent is something I have never had; but, because I came to appreciate art through a close friendship, I find an additional richness to my life, seeing nuances of shadow and touches of color never before noticed. It's interesting to note, too, that the Watrous Gallery is taking an exhibition on the road this season, making a stop at both the Wriston Gallery at Lawrence University in Appleton and Cardinal Stritch University's Northwestern Mutual Art Gallery in Milwaukee.

Then there are the Academy Evenings—the free, public lecture series of the Wisconsin Academy—with diverse topics and fascinating speakers that have enriched my life in myriad ways. These discussions really speak to the educator in me because they provide the kind of life-long learning that is the hallmark of a liberally educated citizen. As students we become experts in increasingly narrow areas; listening to experts from many different areas discuss their research and innovative ideas keeps me intellectually alive.

Academy Evenings are an extension of the Wisconsin Idea. And because they happen around the state they speak to my desire that the Wisconsin Academy be an organization for all Wisconsinites, no matter where we live. In the past, Academy Evenings in the form of thematic series have been restricted to the Madison area. For the Fox Cities, this has changed.

Each month from September through December this fall the Wisconsin Academy will host Age On! A Series On Growing Older, Better. This new, thematic Academy Evenings series is dedicated to examining ways in which we can make the aging process as rewarding as possible. We'll be partnering with the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health to talk about various facets of life that change as we grow older. I must admit, I have a vested interest in the topic: Now in my sixties, I tell myself I am in the midst of the "new" middle age.

I confess this series was my brainchild. The Wisconsin Academy has over the last several years served as a resource for the Appleton Education Foundation, helping with their Brain to Five discussion series on early childhood development during those formative years of pre-birth to age five. The Brain to Five series was enormously successful, and, building on this success, I asked what the Wisconsin Academy might do for others. It seemed obvious to me that an examination of the other end of the age spectrum could be equally interesting.

Taken as a whole or even in part, an Academy Evening series—be it in Madison or the Fox Cities—is intellectually stimulating, providing the most up-to-date and useful information to those fortunate enough to attend them. But as a statewide organization, our Academy Evenings must have a further geographic reach than simply Madison or the Fox Cities. Thus, it's extremely rewarding to be the Wisconsin Academy President who vowed to extend our reach throughout Wisconsin. It's true that there is still nothing like being at an Academy Evenings presentation, listening to experts in any given field and asking difficult questions. But, I am exceptionally pleased that Age On! A Series On Growing Older, Better will be available to all of Wisconsin—from Hudson to Washington Island, Kenosha to Bayfield—via live video webcast. Anyone with an Internet connection can watch these presentations at home, the office, even at their local library. For more details on how to tune in to this live video webcast of particular presentations, please visit our Web site at

Thanks to the hard-working staff at the Wisconsin Academy and the generosity of ThedaCare, the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, the Boldt Company, M&I Bank, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Valley VNA Senior Services, and the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region we now all can look forward to discovering new ideas on how to grow older gracefully. We hope you will attend one or all of the Age On! Series programs—virtually or in person.


James W. Perry is Secretary of the Wisconsin Academy Board of Directors. Perry retired in 2011 as University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley Campus Executive Officer & Dean, having served in that capacity since 1993. He earned his BS, MS, and PhD in the biological sciences from UW-Madison.

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Wisconsin Academy Administrative Offices and Steenbock Gallery
1922 University Avenue
Madison, Wisconsin 53726
Phone: 608-263-1692

James Watrous Gallery of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters
3rd Floor, Overture Center for the Arts
201 State Street
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: 608-265-2500