Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, believes in the redeeming power of mercy – especially for the vulnerable and oppressed. Stevenson’s book was chosen as Villanova University’s 2018 One Book Villanova program selection and the author will visit the University Friday, Sept. 14. In Just Mercy, Stevenson poignantly chronicles his evolution from a young lawyer who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to fighting for justice on behalf of society’s marginalized— those whom have either been falsely convicted or received harsh prison sentences—to a prominent standard bearer for equal justice. The book, which introduces the reader to several clients he has represented, is a testament to the power of promoting the value of compassion in restorative justice.
The author’s visit, which coincides with the opening of the University’s annual St. Thomas of Villanova Celebration—an event which honors the University’s patron saint known for his great charity to the poor and marginalized—will feature an afternoon lecture, free and open to the public. A book signing will be held immediately following the lecture. Stevenson’s presentation will begin at 4 p.m. in the Villanova Room of the Connelly Center. Doors will open at 3 p.m. The Connelly Center Cinema is also reserved for overflow seating, where a simulcast of the lecture will be shown.
“This is such an important conversation for Villanova University to open on our campus. One of the main messages of the book is that we cannot make the change until we are in proximity to those who need our help. In many ways this book challenges us to breech the walls of the Ivory Tower, take with us our learning and skills and then get close to the problems we mean to address,” Teresa Nance, PhD, Associate Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, Chief Diversity Officer, and One Book Villanova committee co-chair said.
“One of my favorite parts of the book is when Stevenson remembers that his grandmother would hug him tightly so that he would feel and remember her,” she added. “Just Mercy is a book that will hug the reader and make you feel the desire to reform our justice system for a very long time.”
At the opening of the author’s lecture, Villanova’s Center for Peace and Justice Education will present Stevenson with its Adela Dwyer St. Thomas Peace Award. The honor recognizes an individual or group for outstanding contributions to the understanding of the meaning and conditions of justice and peace in human communities. The Center for Peace and Justice Education staff selects the award recipient from among nominations received from the Villanova community. Past winners include Susan Burton, No Strings International, General Romeo Dallaire, Covenant House, NETWORK; Wendell Berry; Leymah Gbowee; Noam Chomsky; Daniel J. Berrigan, SJ; Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ; Project H.O.M.E.; and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
“Bryan Stevenson embodies the very essence of the Adela Dwyer-St. Thomas of Villanova Peace Award and we are thrilled to be able to honor him. His work for criminal justice reform is also calling our nation to a deeply honest conversation about history, race, and justice,” Kathryn Getek-Soltis, Director, Center for Peace and Justice Education and Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics said. “In keeping with Augustine's ethos and passion for equity and peace, Stevenson invites us to recognize the humanity in us and others, as there is no possibility of peace without this.”
Stevenson’s appearance as featured speaker of The St. Thomas of Villanova Lecture kicks off the University’s 13th annual St. Thomas of Villanova Celebration, which includes six days of special events – the capstone of which is the University’s St. Thomas of Villanova Day of Service on Sept. 15.
One Book Villanova is a distinctive educational program that engages all segments of the campus community – students, staff and faculty – in activities presented throughout the academic year which explore dominant themes presented in a selected book. Discussion groups, public readings and special events will enliven and extend the campus community’s examination of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.
Details about the author’s visit, the One Book Villanova program, and additional future events open to the public are available on the University’s One Book Villanova Website.
Other selections featured since the One Book Villanova program began in 2005 include The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseni; Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy Tyson; Left To Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza; The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls; Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji; The Unforgiving Minute by Craig Mullaney; Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford; Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan; Good Kings, Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum; The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore; The Distance Between Us: A Memoir by Reyna Grande The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert, and Acts of Faith: The Story of An American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation by Eboo Patel.
About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation’s top universities, Villanova supports its students’ intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit www.villanova.edu.