Naturalist to deliver annual Otis Lecture

Terry Tempest Williams, Western naturalist, cancer survivor and author who focuses on the intimate relationship between human frailty and nature, will speak on Restoration: Faith, Art and Wildness at Bates College Thursday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. in the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall. The public is invited to attend the annual Philip J. Otis Lecture and admission is free.

Williams, who grew up near Great Salt Lake, Utah, calls herself part of a “clan of one-breasted women,” as 10 women of her family, including Williams, have been treated for or have died from breast cancer. The origin of her family’s misfortune – living downwind of atomic bomb testing grounds in the 1950s – thematically pervades her writing. In her memoir, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place (Vintage, 1992), Williams contrasts her mother’s battle with cancer with the Great Salt Lake’s rise to record heights, flooding the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and decimating animal habitat.

Newsweek magazine said Williams is likely to make a “considerable impact on the political, economic and environmental issues facing the Western states this decade,” and the UTNE Reader recognized her as one of the 100 most influential environmentalists. She has received the National Wildlife Federation’s National Conservation Award for Special Achievement and recently was inducted into the Rachel Carson Institute’s Honor Roll.

Williams, who has served as naturalist-in-residence at the Utah Museum of Natural History, is the Shirley Sutton Thomas Visiting Professor of English at the University of Utah. She has received a Lannan Literary Fellowship in creative nonfiction along with a 1997 Guggenheim Fellowship. Her books also include Pieces of White Shell: A Journey to Navajoland, Coyote’s Canyon and Desert Quartet – An Erotic Landscape.

Established in 1996 by Margaret V.B. and C. Angus Wurtele, the Philip J. Otis Lectureship commemorates their son, Philip, a member of the Bates class of 1995, who died attempting to rescue an injured climber on Mount Rainier in 1995. Otis was deeply concerned about nurturing a sense of responsibility for the natural environment, and the annual lectureship focuses on environmental issues and the spiritual and moral dimensions of ecology. The endowment also sponsors opportunities for study, exploration and reflection by students, faculty and other members of the Bates community.

View Comments