On May 12, 2017, Julia will say goodbye to the MHC and begin her retirement.
Talk with Julia Walkling for even a few minutes, and you’ll quickly have a sense of the depth of humanities experience, wisdom, humor, and kindness that is within the heart and soul of this MHC’s program officer. Julia has worked with the MHC since 1983, first as the project director of “Maine at Statehood: The Forgotten Years, 1783-1820,” an Exemplary Award grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities that resulted in a statewide program. She continued with the MHC, leading another Exemplary Award grant for “Music in Baroque Culture” in 1985, and led many others. She has led many programs, including: Let’s Talk About It, Stories for Life, Let’s Talk Local, and, of course, New Books, New Readers.
Julia has been running New Books, New Readers since 1991. Its scholars and site partners know her as a firm believer in the power of the humanities, but also in technique: how to draw a discussion beyond the obvious, how to include the kind of outside details that make a discussion come alive, and, most important, how to listen.
Julia will be the first to tell you that listening is a fundamental part of humanities programming. It’s especially important for the constituents of New Books, New Readers, who have not always been listened to in their lives. They include adults who have never learned to read, who struggle to read, or who are simply not in the habit of reading. Some are retired. Others are new Americans. Some have significant learning disabilities. And some are incarcerated in Maine’s correctional system. New Books, New Readers invites each of these audiences to scholar-led book groups known for the great books in their expansive themed series but also the camaraderie, the community, and the support. Each element of this program—from the questions that form the core of the themed series to the books in the series to the trained scholars to the standards of excellence and of listening—are Julia’s doing.
On May 12, 2017, Julia will say goodbye to the MHC and begin her retirement. New Books, New Readers will carry on thanks to the strong foundation she’s left. The MHC will miss her, but we’re grateful for all that she’s shared with us, especially a strong foundation in profound humanities thinking.