Humanities Institute Introduces Year-Long Series Highlighting the Merrimack River

September 8, 2021

By Emma McDonald ‘22

“A River Runs Through Us” is the theme of this year’s Big Thought series hosted by The Gregory J. Grappone ‘04 Humanities Institute. This series offers students, faculty, staff, and the wider community the opportunity to consider from many perspectives the impactful role the Merrimack River and water play in our lives.

The series will begin on Thursday, September 16th at 7pm with a showing of the film “The Merrimack River at Risk.” After the film, Senior Director of Education at the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, Dave Anderson, who is featured in the film, will lead a discussion about the film’s provocative content. Additional events and discussions will take place throughout the fall and spring semesters.

Also in September, the Humanities will co-host the “Rivers of Health” Game Jam with Requity Labs on September 29th and a lecture on the environmental history of the Lowell and Amoskeag mills on September 30th.

In October the series includes “Beyond the River’s Bend: Navigating Your Career Route” which will take place on Tuesday, October 19 from 5-6 pm via Zoom. At this event, with help from the Career Development Center, students will have the opportunity to use the river as a metaphor and explore potential career paths within their major. There will also be a presentation, “Blame it on the Rain,” looking at the dangers of pavement and runoff to the Merrimack River.

On Thursday, November 11 at 7 pm at the Jean Event Center, students will have the opportunity to learn about the significance of the rivers and wetlands to the Abenaki people at the event “Indigenous Peoples and the Merrimack River.”

During the spring semester students will have the opportunity to listen to a panel organized by Professor Pennington from the Criminal Justice Department. The panel will discuss the homeless populations’ and their experiences living along the Merrimack River. Other events in the spring will include the reporting of research conducted on the Merrimack River in the fall by Prof. Brian Penney’s students, an art exhibit in the Dana Center lobby, and an evening featuring, literature and music inspired by the Merrimack River.

“The Grappone Humanities Institute’s focus on The Merrimack River brings profound and practical questions to our campus home as we learn about the fragile ecosystem of the Merrimack watershed” says Gary Bouchard, Executive Director of the Humanities Institute and English Professor. The discussions from this series will allow the community to hear from a variety of perspectives about the importance of the Merrimack River in our lives from a historical perspective to cultural aspects.

The theme – A River Runs Through It – also carries over to academic classes. This year, for the second year in a row, first-year students will be required to read Charles Fishman’s The Big Thirst in their Conversatio classes. This reading will lead to discussions about the significance of the Merrimack River within the college community. Discussions in the classroom will include, “Why are we here in Manchester, New Hampshire?” and “How does the Merrimack River affect me personally?”

Bouchard extends his gratitude to the departments and individuals who have partnered with the Humanities Institute to help create a year-long engaging series that will help us “understand the historical, ecological, economic and cultural place of the Merrimack in our lives.”  

The sponsors for the 2021-2022 Big Thoughts Series include: the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, the Goffstown Public Library, Goffstown Public Works, the Millyard Museum in Manchester, the Geisel Library, and Saint Anselm College’s Departments of Biology, Criminal Justice, English, History, Physics, Psychology and Theology.


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