Neilly Author Series

Peter Conners sitting on a small set of steps

Peter Conners, Beyond the Edge of Suffering


Book cover of Beyond the Edge of Suffering by Peter Conners

Date: October 19, 2022
Time: 7:00 - 7:30 p.m.
Location: Hawkins-Carlson Room, Rush Rhees or Virtually, on Zoom

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After a decade of exclusively writing nonfiction books about music and counterculture, the pandemic pushed Conners back into writing prose poetry. In his talk, Conners will read from and discuss his book, sharing personal stories about the origins of the prose poetry/flash fiction collection. A Q&A session and book signing will follow. Conners has published 11 books of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry, and edited dozens of volumes of poetry and prose. His nonfiction books – Cornell ‘77Growing Up DeadJAMerica, and White Hand Society — have garnered him a reputation as a leading chronicler of the Grateful Dead, jam band, and countercultural community. In 2017, Cornell '77: The Music, Myth and Magnificence of the Grateful Dead's Concert at Barton Hall was included in the Grammy-nominated Grateful Dead box set, May 1977: Get Shown the Light. Conners currently lives with his family in Rochester, NY. He is executive director and publisher of the award-winning independent publishing house BOA Editions, Ltd

Photo of Erin Gruwell, author of Dear Freedom Writer

Erin Gruwell, Achieving the Impossible, Become a catalyst for change


Book cover for Dear Freedom Writer by Erin Gruwell

Date: November 17, 2022
Time: 6:00 - 7:30 p.m.
Location: Hawkins-Carlson Room, Rush Rhees or Virtually, on Zoom

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Erin Gruwell is an American teacher known for her unique teaching method, which led to the publication of The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them. She is a teacher. An author and the founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation. In her presentation she will talk about achieving the impossible and becoming a catalyst for change.

Erin Gruwell found herself the teacher for a troubled group of students who had been dubbed unteachable. The tale of how this first-year teacher encouraged these wayward inner city kids to redirect their lives, forego rampant drugs and the violence that pervaded their neighborhoods is the story recounted in the best-selling The Freedom Writers Diary. From the stark reality of one seemingly innocuous event in the classroom, she sparked a chord in the students that led the class to name themselves the Freedom Writers. Over the course of a few months, Gruwell empowered the class to re-chart their future and go on to become college students, published writers and citizens for change.

Photo of Dean Dayna Bowen Matthew

Dean Dayna Bowen Matthew, Just Health


Just Health book cover art

Date: December 7, 2022
Time: 6:00 - 7:30 p.m.
Location: Hawkins-Carlson Room, Rush Rhees or Virtually, on Zoom

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The Neilly Author Series is pleased to bring Dayna Bowen Matthew, JD, PhD to Rochester for the third Neilly Author Series lecture.  The University of Rochester Psychiatry Department, home of the biopsychosocial mode, celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, and to commemorate the occasion,  Dayna is invited to bring her insight, research, and conclusions on her most recent book:  Just Medicine: A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Health Care.

Dayna Bowen Matthew, JD, PhD, is the Dean and Harold H. Greene Professor of Law at the George Washington University Law School. A leader in public health and civil rights law who focuses on disparities in health, health care, and the social determinants of health, Dean Matthew joined GW Law in 2020. In addition to the book being highlighted here, she is also the author of the recently released “Just Health: Treating Structural Racism to Heal America,” and is the co-author of a case book on public health law, ethics, and policy.


Photo of Gitanjali Rao

Gitanjali Rao, Young Innovator’s Guild to STEM


A Young Innovator's Guide to STEM book cover

Date: January 23, 2023
Time: 6:00 - 7:30 p.m.
Location: Hawkins-Carlson Room, Rush Rhees or Virtually, on Zoom

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Gitanjali Rao Gitanjali Rao was recognized as America’s Top Young Scientist and received an EPA Presidential award for inventing her device “Tethys” – an early lead detection tool.  Gitanjali is also the inventor of “Epione” – a device for early diagnosis of prescription opioid addiction using genetic engineering, and “Kindly” – an anti-cyberbullying service using Al and Natural Language processing.  She is currently conducting research on early detection of pathogens at the Broad Institute of MIT/Harvard.

She was honored as Forbes “30 under 30 in Science” in 2019 and TIME’S “Top Young Innovator” and TIME “Kid of the Year” for her innovations and STEM workshops she conducts globally, which has inspired over 68,000 students across six continents and 43 countries.  In her sessions, she shares her own process of innovation that can be used by students all over the world.  She often presents in global and corporate forums on innovation and the importance of STEM.

About Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly

Janet Dayton and Andrew H. Neilly
Janet Dayton and Andrew H. Neilly

In a wonderful millennium gift, Life Trustee Andrew H. Neilly and his wife, Janet, established a named, endowed library position at the University of Rochester with a $1 million gift. The Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of River Campus Libraries Endowment is used by the dean to support library programs designed to contribute to the intellectual life of the University and to enhance the libraries' collections related to academic initiatives. With this purpose, the Neilly Series was established in 2001.

The libraries have been the focus of Andy Neilly's interest at the University for many years. During the University's Campaign for the '90s, Andy and his co-chair and good friend, Jack Keil, raised several million dollars in support of the libraries. 

A graduate of the Class of 1947, Andy had a distinguished career in the field of publishing, serving as president, CEO, and vice chairman of the board of John Wiley & Sons in New York City before his retirement in 1995. Both he and Janet grew up in Rochester. Janet attended William Smith College and Northwestern University. She is a founder of Connecticut Hospice.

Andy has noted on many occasions:

The library is the key to the University. It is the center for everything else that happens here.