“Breakthrough” Hancock Symposium 2019 Breaks Attendance Records

The 14th annual Hancock Symposium 2019 that took place Sept. 18 and Sept. 19 will go down in Westminster College history as one of the most successful Symposia to date.

Established in 2006 to represent the finest aspects of a Westminster education, the “Breakthrough”-themed Symposium delivered on its promise to showcase a full schedule of lectures, panel discussions and presentations by noted experts on transformations across the spectrum of human experience.

Attendees included Westminster students, faculty, staff, members of the local community, individuals from across the United States and a wide variety of media outlets. Media present at the event included the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Missourinet, the Fulton Sun, the Columbia Daily Tribune, a variety of local TV news stations and the independent Russian RTVI network. For more information on RTVI’s coverage and their connection to Westminster Alumnus Mikhail Orlov, ’96 ΒΘΠ, go here.

In addition, more than 150 high schoolers and nine counselors from Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas descended on campus for the two-day event. Read more about their visit and generous alumni sponsors here.

Behind the Breakthrough Theme: The Berlin Wall, Westminster Women and America’s National Churchill Museum

The “Breakthrough” Hancock Symposium marked a series of landmark anniversaries: the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the 40th anniversary of women at Westminster and the 50th anniversary of America’s National Churchill Museum.

Serving as the central theme of this year’s Symposium was the Breakthrough sculpture by internationally acclaimed artist and Churchill Fellow The Honorable Edwina Sandys, M.B.E. Sandys arrived on campus to celebrate Symposium and offer a living reminder of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. She gave a presentation on her 32-foot-Breakthrough sculpture — composed of eight sections of the Berlin Wall — which has been prominently located on Westminster’s Latshaw Plaza since 1990. Sandys is the granddaughter of Green Lecturer and Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Read more about her special presentation here.

The two-day event also included a reception that honored Westminster women by the Westminster Women Advancing Together committee. An article on that event can be found here.

Finally, Symposium speakers often referred to the 50th anniversary of America’s National Churchill Museum on the Westminster campus. It is the only museum in North America dedicated to commemorate the life and times of Churchill, who delivered Westminster’s most-famous Green Lecture, the “Sinews of Peace” (also known as the “Iron Curtain” speech) in 1946.

Hancock Symposium 2019 Speakers

Symposium Chair Dr. Carolyn Perry, Director for the Center for Teaching and Learning and Professor of English, says the event this year was remarkable. “The quality and depth of our speakers, as well as their accessibility to our students, made the Symposium a truly outstanding event,” Perry says. “The range of speakers this year accomplished our goals beautifully.”

Dr. Jeremy Straughn, Director of the Churchill Institute for Global Engagement, agrees. He adds, “This year’s Symposium truly was a breakthrough for the College. One for the history books.”

Descriptions of the nearly 20 speaker presentations are found below.

Accomplished Westminster Alumni
Hancock Symposium 2019 Speakers included seven accomplished Westminster alumni: Reality TV Executive Gretchen Kinder, ‘94 ΚΑΘ, National Geographic Photographer John Rollins, ’87 ΦΔΘ, Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation’s Karen Oyerly, ’99, Missouri State Representative Ian Mackey, ’09, Data Science Consultant Bailey Mitchell, ’17 ΚΑΘ, Little Rock Elementary Teacher of the Year Jessica Sanders, ’06, and Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Delaware Derick Dailey, ’11.

Above: Reality TV Executive Gretchen Kinder, ‘94 ΚΑΘ


Above: National Geographic Photographer John Rollins, ’87 ΦΔΘ


Above: Karen Oyerly, ’99, Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation


Missouri State Representative Ian Mackey, ’09


Data Science Consultant Bailey Mitchell, ’17 ΚΑΘ


Little Rock Elementary Teacher of the Year Jessica Sanders, ’06


Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Delaware Derick Dailey, ’11


Actors’ Gang Theater: Loncka, Bunton and Loya
Other speakers included the subjects of a recent documentary by Actor and Director Tim Robbins.  Jeremie Loncka, Major Bunton and Richard Loya spoke about their celebrated Actors’ Gang Theatre. They also gave an acting workshop that highlighted how they help California prison inmates rehabilitate through emotional recognition, helping them develop feelings of self-worth, happiness and compassion.


CEO and Asset Manager Jim Bowen
Asset Manager Jim Bowen, of First Trust Portfolios L.P., gave a presentation on his perspectives regarding the free market and how economic challenges can be solved.

U.S. Army Veteran Robert Canine

U.S. Army veteran and double amputee Robert Canine discussed his struggles to overcome PTSD and his physical challenges, motivating attendees to “unleash the beast” within in order to overcome life’s obstacles.

Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies Dr. Bill Young
Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies Dr. Bill Young discussed how Native American and African American baseball players broke through the color barrier to achieve success.

Mia Eastman of Operation Earth Guardians

Mia Eastman, Co-Founder and Creative Unification Director of Operation Earth Guardians, spoke about what it means to be apologetically human in order to fix environmental issues on our planet.


Fulton Middle School Principal Beth Houf
Beth Houf discussed how to use technology to promote excellence in teaching and learning while harnessing its power for good.


Molecular Biologist Dr. Ellen Jorgensen
Dr. Ellen Jorgensen, Co-Founder and Former Director of Genspace, spoke about “Life in the Age of CRISPR: How Genome Editing Will Change the World.”

The Hon. Edwina Sandys, M.B.E., Breakthrough Artist
Edwina Sandys, Churchill Fellow, Honorary Degree Recipient and Granddaughter of Winston Churchill, gave a special presentation on her art in the Champ Auditorium foyer. Read more about her presentation here.


Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Dr. George Smith
Dr. George Smith of the University of Missouri-Columbia, gave a talk with Jorgensen titled “The Future of Science: It Takes a Village.” He also later spoke on “Tear Down This Wall: Freedom and Equality for All Who Share the Palestinian Homeland.” Finally, Smith received an honorary doctorate during the John Findley Green Foundation Lecture.

John Findley Green Foundation Lecture: Former U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Madeleine K. Albright
Hancock Symposium ended the afternoon of Sept. 19 with the 59th John Findley Green Foundation Lecture, which was delivered by the first female U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Madeline K. Albright. Albright spoke to a near-capacity crowd of 1,100 at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 19 in Champ Auditorium. Read more about Albright’s lecture here.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is the Director of Media Relations and Senior Writer at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. A proud Westminster graduate, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communications in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.