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Kirby-Greer Endowed Lectures

Kirby-Greer Endowed Lectures

The Kirby-Greer Endowed Lectures are supported by Jay and Catherine Kirby and George and Jane Greer.

Jay and Catherine Kirby
Jay (right) and Catherine (left) Kirby

Jay graduated from Penn State in 1959 with a degree in labor management and received his master’s degree from Cornell University. Catherine graduated from Penn State in 1961 with an arts & letters degree. Jay is the retired senior vice president of FMC Corporation in Chicago, IL, a leading producer of chemicals for agriculture, food, and pharmaceutical markets. Together they established the William J. and Catherine Craig Kirby Professorship in Language Learning in the College of the Liberal Arts in 1998. 

George GreerAfter graduating with an arts and letters degree from Penn State in 1954, George earned his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1957 before starting a 37-year career at H.J. Heinz Company in Pittsburgh. He retired in 1997 as Vice President for Organizational Development and Administration. During his tenure at the company, he assisted and supported the greater Pittsburgh community, including projects with Penn State, through the H.J. Heinz Company Foundation. He and his wife, Jane, established the George C. and Jane G. Greer Professorship in Language Acquisition in the College of the Liberal Arts in 2005.

Meg Gebhard (2020)

Speaker: Meg Gebhard

Date of Talk: March 2, 2020

Location: 158 Willard building

Title and abstract: 

Multilingual Students’ Disciplinary Literacies in Hard Times:

Systemic Functional Linguistics in Action in US Secondary Schools

Drawing on Halliday’s theory of systemic functional linguistics, Dr. Gebhard describes the formation of a sustained university-school partnership informed by a social semiotic perspective of language, learning, and social change (e.g., New London Group, 1996). This partnership supported teams of teachers, doctoral students, and literacy researchers in collaboratively designing curriculum and analyzing changes in the literacy practices of linguistically and culturally diverse students over time using case study methods (e.g., Dyson & Genishi, 2005). Dr. Gebhard shares findings from these studies with a focus on how multilinguals at the secondary level learned to read, write, and critique multimodal texts in math and science (Gebhard, 2019).

Carl Ratner (2019)

Speaker: Carl Ratner

Date of Talk: April 2, 2019

Location: Foster Auditorium

Title and abstract: 

What Does An Emancipatory, Scientific Psychology Look Like? Cultural-historical Psychology”

This presentation endeavors to 1) conceptualize social and psychological emancipation, 2) explain how Psychological science can contribute to this emancipation, 3) explain how Vygotsky’s psychological theory, named cultural-historical psychology, makes this contribution to emancipation.

Specifically, I shall conceptualize genuine emancipation as solving social problems by eradicating their political-economic causes. Psychology contributes to emancipation by treating psychological issues as cultural issues having cultural causes. This role for Psychology alters its traditional orientation toward using individual processes to change individual behavior.

Vygotsky’s cultural-historical Psychology is the best, if not the only, psychological approach that fits this bill for social and psychological emancipation. Cultural-historical Psychology directs individuals to join psychological fulfillment with social emancipation.

Terrence Deacon (2017)

Speaker: Terrance Deacon

Date of talk: Oct. 6, 2017

Location: 113 Carnegie Building

Title and abstract: 

“Universal Grammar: Neither Nature nor Nurture”

Terrence W. Deacon will discuss some recent work that takes an unprecedented approach to universal grammar and the poverty of the stimulus argument. In his discussion, he will focus on symbolic reference and constraints by investigating four main categories: semiotic constraints, neural processing constraints, evolved sensorimotor schemas and cognitive biases, and pragmatic social communication constraints.

Peter Smagorinsky (2017)

Speaker: Dr. Peter Smagorinsky (University of Georgia)

Date of talk: Feb 22, 2017

Title of presentation: Towards a Social Understanding of Mental Health


Dr. Smagorinsky will discuss his most recent work in neurodiversity which takes a social perspective on “disability” and “disorder,” viewing them as relational and situational rather than fixed in pathology. This talk will center on “mental health” as both whole-body and environmental and challenge assumptions about how to construct satisfying life pathways for the neurodiverse population.