College Hosts Park Symposium

  A portrait of the late Jan Cohn hangs in the Faculty Club in Hamlin Hall.
  A portrait of the late Jan Cohn hangs in the Faculty Club in Hamlin Hall.

At a symposium marking the sesquicentennial of Hartford’s Bushnell Park, Trinity hosted a group of scholars and historians in the Washington Room for Bushnell Park at One Hundred Fifty: Legacies & Lessons. The two-day event, which took place September 30 and October 1 and was free and open to the public, was dedicated to the memory of Jan Kadetsky Cohn, the G. Keith Funston Professor of American Literature and American Studies.

The program featured a keynote address, “The Paradoxes of Pluralism,” by Harvard University Professor of English and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Menand as well as presentations and panel discussions that included several Trinity faculty members. Andrew Walsh, associate director of the Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, gave a talk entitled “Immigrant Religion: The Irish, the Italians, and the Jews,” Louis Figueroa, associate professor of history, lectured about “The Latinos,” and Wm. Frank Mitchell, visiting lecturer in American studies, spoke on “The African Americans.” Jack Dougherty, assistant professor and director of educational studies; Susan Pennybacker, associate professor history and director of the Hartford Studies Project; and Kevin Sullivan, vice president for community relations, took part in a panel discussion that focused on “Hartford Today: Problems and Projects.”

“We were very happy with the large turnout and the quality of the presentations,” says Associate Academic Dean Ron Spencer, one of the event’s organizers. “A number of people who have been around Hartford a long time told me that they learned some interesting and valuable things about the park that they hadn’t known. So, in that sense, we helped to inform our audience.”

The symposium was accompanied by an exhibit of historical Bushnell Park photographs in the Mather art space, adjacent to the Washington Room. The exhibit was organized and curated by Nancy Albert, a 1988 IDP graduate who is now on staff at Wesleyan University.

Professor Cohn was the main force behind the event, beginning the process more than a year ago, and had completed most of the planning for it prior to her death on July 1, 2004. A resident of Hartford throughout her career at Trinity, Professor Cohn came to the College in 1987 as dean of faculty, the first woman to hold that position. A memorial service in the College Chapel followed the symposium.

“Jan lived in Hartford for 17 years, first on Vernon Street when she was dean, and later downtown,” explains Spencer. “She was very much an urban person. She came to care a great deal about Hartford, and this kind of event—a symposium—reflects some of her deepest interests and strongest commitments. I think she would be pleased.”

Harvard Professor Louis Menand speaks at the symposium as Ron Spencer (l) looks on.
Harvard Professor Louis Menand speaks at the symposium as Ron Spencer (l) looks on.
(photo Nick Lacy)

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