Author and food enthusiast Julie Powell, known to millions as one half of “Julie & Julia,” will deliver the Emmie V. Baine Lecture during SMU’s 46th Annual Women’s Symposium. This year’s event is scheduled for March 2, 2011, in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Ballroom.
Powell will speak during lunch at the Symposium, which is the oldest continuously running program of its kind in the country and attracts hundreds of community leaders, high school students and college students, faculty and staff members each year.
The topic, “Happiness Is…,” was the result of brainstorming by the Symposium advisory board, CORE student planning committee and staff members, says Karen Click, director of the SMU Women’s Center for Gender and Pride Initiatives.
“We found we’re often comparing notes with each other about that secret to happiness,” she says. “Women are constantly trying to understand this thing. There are so many false paths to happiness, so much money spent in pursuit of it, so many dynamics involved in seeking and finding it. We thought it was a great broad theme, and the entire community can relate to it.”
Finding the ideal keynote speaker was the next challenge. “Most people don’t get their degrees in happiness or work for the Department of Happiness,” Click says. Powell’s biography and body of work stood out in that regard, she says.
In 2002 Powell, an Austin native, worked in the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s call center, answering questions from victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and complaints from the public about the LMDC’s plans for rebuilding on the World Trade Center site. In search of a sense of direction in her life, she decided to cook every recipe in the landmark 1961 book Mastering the Art of French Cooking, cowritten by Julia Child, and blog about her experiences. Those writings, collectively known as The Julie/Julia Project, led to Powell’s first book, Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, published by Little, Brown in 2005. The book in turn helped inspire the major motion picture “Julie & Julia” starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep, released by Columbia Pictures in 2009.
But wealth and fame brought no contentment. Powell almost lost her marriage and went through a series of financial disasters that ate into her new fortune. “Basically, she discovered she wasn’t happy at all,” Click says. “She became a butcher’s apprentice to rediscover her spark and motivation, and she wrote her second book about that experience.” Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession was published in 2009.
The Symposium will present a variety of interest sessions on the subject of finding happiness, as well as a show by the Dallas improvisational comedy group Heroine Addiction.
In addition, the Symposium will recognize the winners of its 2011 Profiles in Leadership Awards and Gail Reese Ward Excellence in Mentoring Award. The recipients are:
Profiles in Leadership Awards
• Lois Finkelman, public policy consultant
• Candace O’Keefe Mathis, CEO, Foundation for Women’s Resources
• Peggy Sewell, philanthropist and director, Sewell Automotive Companies
• Karen Shuford ’70, charitable trust consultant, Bank of America Private Client Group
• Kathleen Wu, partner, Andrews Kurth LLP
Gail Reese Excellence in Mentoring Award
• Phyllis Bernstein, philanthropist
Symposium attendance is discounted for SMU faculty and staff, and students can attend free. The online registration deadline is Wednesday, Feb. 23. Register through the Women’s Symposium website or contact Wendy Smith, 214-768-4792.
(Photo of Julie Powell ©Kelly Campbell)