McDonald Center for America’s Founding Principles to Host Fourth Annual Elliott Conference on Great Books and Ideas


MACON – Mercer University's Thomas C. and Ramona E. McDonald Center for America's Founding Principles will host its fourth annual A.V. Elliott Conference on Great Books and Ideas, March 22-23, focusing on the theme “1776.”

“This year's theme captures the essence of what we are trying to accomplish at the McDonald Center. We're not only focusing on this pivotal moment in American history – and especially the core principles of America, as articulated in the Declaration of Independence – but also considering 1776 in the broader context of Western Civilization,” said Dr. Will R. Jordan, associate professor of political science and co-director of the Center.

“Among other events, this was the year Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations, Edward Gibbon published his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and the great Scottish thinker David Hume died. The ideas and principles articulated in this year reach back to antiquity yet are largely responsible for making the world in which we live. Our lectures and panels will explore this seminal year in many dimensions.”

This year's conference will be the largest to date, with 11 scholars set to present as lecturers or panelists. All events will be free and open to the public and will be held in the Presidents Dining Room inside the University Center.

The opening lecture will be delivered by Dr. Diana Schaub, professor of political science at Loyola University Maryland and a member of the Hoover Institution's Jill and Boyd Smith Task Force on the Virtues of a Free Society. She will present “Lincoln and the Daughters of Dred Scott: A Reflection on the Declaration of Independence” on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Dr. Schaub has authored Erotic Liberalism: Women and Revolution in Montesquieu's Persian Letters (Rowman and Littlefield, 1995), co-edited What So Proudly We Hail: The American Soul in Story, Speech, and Song (ISI, 2011) and written a number of book chapters and articles in the fields of political philosophy and American political thought. She earned her bachelor's degree from Kenyon College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and her master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Chicago. In 2001, she was awarded the Richard M. Weaver Prize for Scholarly Letters, and from 2004 to 2009, she was a member of the President's Council on Bioethics.

The conference's closing lecture will be delivered by Dr. Gordon Lloyd, Robert and Katheryn Dockson Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University. He will present “1776: A Synopsis” on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Dr. Lloyd has co-authored three books on the American founding and authored a book on the political economy of the New Deal. He earned his bachelor's degree from McGill University and completed all the coursework toward a doctorate in economics at the University of Chicago, before earning his master's and doctoral degrees in government from Claremont Graduate School.

Additionally, as part of the conference, four Mercer students and nine visiting scholars will present their original research.

The student panel, featuring Anna Bates, Maggie Callahan, Samuel Moses and Maurilia Oldham, will take place on Tuesday at 4 p.m. Faculty panels will take place on Wednesday at 9 a.m., 10:45 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Panelists include Dr. William B. Allen (Michigan State), Dr. Jane Calvert (Kentucky), Dr. Peter McNamara (Utah State), Dr. Thomas Merrill (American), Dr. Adam Potkay (William and Mary), Dr. Dennis Rasmussen (Tufts), Dr. James Read (Saint John's), Dr. Scott Segrest (The Citadel) and Dr. Brian Steele (Alabama-Birmingham). The conference's full schedule is available at

“We're thrilled to be joined by such an illustrious group of scholars. Professors Schaub and Lloyd are wonderful scholars of the American founding, and we're delighted to bring together such a diverse array of topics and approaches on our panels,” said Dr. Jordan.

The McDonald Center for America's Founding Principles has held an annual Conference on Great Books and Ideas since 2008. That conference was endowed with a $1 million gift from alumnus and trustee A.V. Elliott in November 2012. Elliott, a 1956 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts who majored in history and Christianity, went on to found Elliott Machine Shop, a 100-employee company in Macon. His success, he said, was in part due to his ability to think critically at important moments, a skill he honed in his humanities courses at Mercer.

About the Thomas C. and Ramona E. McDonald Center for America's Founding Principles

The Thomas C. and Ramona E. McDonald Center for America's Founding Principles exists to supplement Mercer University's excellent liberal arts program with a redoubled commitment to the foundational texts and ideas that have shaped Western Civilization and the American political order. This focus on the core texts of the Western tradition helps to revitalize a cross-centuries dialogue about citizenship, human rights, and political, economic and religious freedom, thereby deepening the moral imagination and fostering civic and cultural literacy.

The McDonald Center's programming includes the annual A.V. Elliott Conference on Great Books and Ideas, faculty-student reading groups, a general education course on America's Founding Principles, summer Great Books programs for high school teachers and students, and undergraduate research fellowships. All programming is designed to enhance Mercer's longstanding role as a distinctive home of liberal learning, a place where serious students come to live the life of the mind and emerge more thoughtful and engaged citizens.

Kyle is senior director of media relations at Mercer. In addition to being the primary media contact for most academic and administrative units of the university, he serves as editor of the Mercerian alumni magazine and News@Mercer e-newsletters, and he coordinates hometown and university news releases.