Winter 2024 Media Release

Posted on January 25th, 2024 at 3:19 PM
Winter 2024 Media Release



JES begins with 2024 programming with culinary historian for Hagen History Center Lecture Series, introduces new course, new series with LECOM, continues programming at five countywide sites

Erie, Pennsylvania (Jan. 25) – Hailing from Annapolis, Maryland, Joyce White, a culinary historian, author, and consultant to historic museums, will kick off the Jefferson Educational Society’s Winter Term 2024 programming on Tuesday, Feb. 5 with “A Taste of History: Chocolate through Time,” as part of the Hagen History Center Lecture Series.


The event will feature a pre-event, chocolate-themed reception at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, but advanced registration, which can be made at the JES’s website; by phone at 814.459.8000; or in person at the JES offices, located at 3207 State St., Erie, PA 16508, is required.


White will delve into chocolate’s ancient beginnings in Meso-America through the centuries of modern day. She will also focus on the change in terms of chocolate's cultural value and how mechanization has altered its production process. Her presentation will begin at 7 p.m.


In all, more than 30 programs are planned during the winter term, including 18 presentations and two courses at the JES, 3207 State Street, and 12 programs at Jefferson satellite sites:

-          Corry Higher Education Council in Corry - 221 N. Center St., Corry, PA 16407

-          Erie Center for Arts and Technology in East Erie - 650 East Ave., Suite 120, Erie, PA 16503 

-          Lincoln Community Library in Fairview - 1255 Manchester Road, Erie, PA 16505

-          Harborcreek Township building in Harborcreek - 5601 Buffalo Road, Harbocreek, PA 16421  

-          PennWest College in Edinboro - 110 Kiltie Road, Edinboro, PA 16444.


The “Winter Term” slate of programming runs through March 21. All events are open to the public.


“We are thrilled to kick off 2024 with the continuation of strong partnerships, introduce a new course, and continue our programming across six locations,” said JES President Dr. Ferki Ferati, who will present the inaugural lecture of Brock Institute for Mega Issues Education series, “The Loss of Democracy Then and Now,” which continues the work of the late Rev. Charles Brock, one of the JES’s founders, on March 13. “Our team is excited to welcome back all JES members and Erie area residents eager to attend these enlightening and engaging programs in the new year.”


Programming also includes two seminar-styled courses – the continuation of the long-running “Great Discussions,” facilitated by former Foreign Service Officer Christine Riehl, and the introduction of “Great Decisions 2024,” a monthly gathering in partnership with the Foreign Policy Association that dives into critical, global issues with national- and local-level implications. Great Decisions will be co-facilitated by Diane Childo, a political science professor, national security expert, and routine JES contributor, and Riehl. Each course has limited registration. 


Beginning in 2024, the JES is partnering with the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) to introduce a new year-long series exploring behavioral and mental health. The series will begin on Monday, Feb. 12 and will feature Dr. Danielle Hansen, a professor of Internal Medicine at LECOM and Vice President of Behavioral Health at Millcreek Community Hospital, who will present, “Care. Compassion. Community: LECOM Behavior Health.”


Winter Term events also include the continuation of the “Community Conversations” series on Fridays at noon. They include:

  • “From Gray to Green: Exploring and Comparing German, U.S. Models of Economic Transition” with JES Vice President Ben Speggen;
  • “Tackling Erie’s Childcare Crisis — Early Childcare Investment Policy Initiative” with policy expert Court Gould and a panel of subject experts;
  • “Blue Coats: How a Grassroots Organization is Leading Erie’s Anti-Violence Movement” with Founder and Executive Director of Creative Community Connections Daryl “Brother D” Craig, Sr.;
  • “Sustained Recovery: The Future of Downtown Erie and the EDDC” with the Chief Executive Officer of the Erie Downtown Development Corporation Drew Whiting;
  • “The Role of Economic Development Agencies in Rebuilding a Community” with Erie County Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Tina Mengine;
  • “Infinite Progress – How Infinite Erie is Putting Plans into Action” with Kim Thomas, the executive director of Infinite Erie.


These events are free and open to the public, but a brown-bag lunch can be purchased for $5 with advanced registration. Attendees are also welcome to bring their own lunches if they wish.


On March 4 at 7 p.m., the JES will host visiting speaker Lee Strang J.D., LL.M., a law professor and director of the Institute of American Constitutional Thought & Leadership at the University of Toledo.


Strang will present, “The Constitution and Religion: Prospects for Religious Liberty in the United States,” another Brock Institute lecture, to explore how the United States Constitution protects Americans’ religious liberty, and how historically, the American legal system’s robust protection for religious freedom has been undergirded by a broad social consensus that supports such protection. Will the Supreme Court protect religious liberty in the future? Strang will offer his expert opinion.


Among the term’s highlights will be presentations by several Jefferson scholars-in-residence, including David Frew, Baher Ghosheh, Johnny Johnson, and Andrew Roth, and area experts will examine current events, including the wars and conflicts in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip.


A full list of upcoming events is featured on the following page.


For more information about the programs, memberships, or to make reservations, call 814.459.8000 or visit


Speakers and the JES staff are available before and after lectures, discussions, and conversations for interviews. Media coverage is welcome at all events.


For comments in advance, please contact:

Ben Speggen

Vice PresidentJefferson Educational Society



The following is a listing of all JES Winter Term events.

Schedule subject to change. For the most up-to-date information, visit, or call 814.459.8000.




Lectures, Discussions, and Conversations

Tuesday, Feb. 6, 7 to 8:30 p.m.- “A Taste of History: Chocolate through Time” with Joyce White, M.A., Culinary Historian and Consultant. Term kick-off reception 6:00 to 7:00pm - Hagen History Center Lecture Series Visiting Speaker (Free)

Wednesday, Feb. 7, 7 to 8:30pm – “Our Native North American Neighbors: Echoes of the Eriez” with David Frew, Ph.D., JES Scholar-in-Residence

Thursday, Feb. 8, 6 to 7:30 p.m. – “Raising the Next Generation: Examining Childcare” with Members of the JCLA Cohort presenting during the JES Civic Leadership Academy Graduation (Free)

Friday, Feb. 9, Noon to 1:30 p.m. – “From Gray to Green: Exploring and Comparing German US Models of Economic Transition,” with Ben Speggen, M.A., JES Vice President - Community Conversation (Free)

Tuesday. Feb.12, 7 to 8:30 p.m. – “Care. Compassion. Community. LECOM Behavioral Health” with Danielle Hansen, D.O., LECOM Professor of Internal Medicine - Lecture Series in Partnership with LECOM (Free)

Tuesday, Feb. 13, 7-8:30 p.m. – “Another Devastating ‘War’ in Gaza: Are We Any Closer to a Solution to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict?” with Baher Ghosheh, Ph.D., JES Scholar-in-Residence and Chairman, JES Board of Trustees

Friday, Feb. 16, Noon to 1:30 p.m. – “Tackling Erie’s Childcare Crisis - Early Childcare Investment Policy Initiative” with Court Gould, M.P.A., and ECIPI Policy Experts - Community Conversation (Free)

Tuesday, Feb. 20, 7 to 8:30 p.m. – “A Celestial Treat: A Total Solar Eclipse Coming to Erie!” with Darren Williams, Ph.D., Astronomy Professor, Penn State Behrend

Thursday, Feb. 22, 7 to 8:30 p.m. – “A History of the US’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities” with Johnny Johnson, M.Ed., JES Scholar-in-Residence

Friday, Feb. 23rd Noon to 1:30 p.m. – “Blue Coats: How a Grassroots Organization is Leading Erie’s Anti-Violence Movement” with Daryl “Brother D” Craig, Sr., Founder & Executive Director of Creative Community Connectors Ministry - Community Conversation (Free)

Wednesday, Feb. 28, 7 to 8:30 p.m. – “Two years of Russian War in Ukraine” with Lena Surzhko-Harned, Ph.D., Political Science Professor, Penn State Behrend

Friday, March 1, Noon to 1:30 p.m. – “Sustained Recovery: The Future of Downtown Erie” with Drew Whiting, J.D., the EDDC Chief Executive Officer - Community Conversation (Free)

Monday, March 4, 7 to 8:30 p.m. – “The Constitution and Religion: Prospects for Religious Liberty in the United States” with Lee Strang, J.D., LL.M., Law Professor, Director of the Institute of American Constitutional Thought & Leadership at the University of Toledo - Brock Institute Visiting Speaker Lecture (Free)

Tuesday, March 5, 7 to 8:30 p.m. - The Birth of the Women’s Movement: 19th Century Women Who Challenged Their Times and Shaped the Future with Andrew Roth, Ph.D., JES Scholar-in-Residence

Friday, March 8, Noon to 1:30 p.m. – “The Role of Economic Development Agencies in Rebuilding a Community” with Tina Mengine, B.S., Executive Director, Erie County Redevelopment Authority - Community Conversation (Free)

Monday, March 11, 7 to 8:30 p.m. – “Earthscape Erie: A Place-based, Earth-systems Approach Exploring Northwestern Pennsylvania” with Joseph Reese, Ph.D., Geology Professor, PennWest Edinboro

Wednesday, March 13, 7 to 8:30 p.m. – “The Loss of Democracy Then and Now: The Fall of the Roman Republic” with Ferki Ferati, Ed.D., JES President - Brock Institute Lecture (Free) 

Friday, March 15, Noon to 1:30 p.m. – “Infinite Progress – How Infinite Erie is Putting Plans into Action” with Kim Thomas, M.P.A., Infinite Erie Executive Director - Community Conversation (Free)


Courses at the Jefferson

Weekly – Tuesdays, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. – “Great Conversations Continued” with Christine Riehl, M.P.P. Former Foreign Service Officer - Discussion Group Sessions running: Jan. 23 through March 12; March 19 through May 7 - Limited Advanced Registration

Monthly – Third Thursday of the month, from Noon to 1:30 p.m. – “Great Decisions 2024 with Christine Riehl, M.P.P., Former Foreign Service Officer, and Diane Chido, M.S., M.A., Political Science Professor - Discussion Group Sessions running: Feb.15 through Sept.19 - Limited Advanced Registration


Jefferson Satellite Programming

East Erie - Erie Center for Arts & Technology (ECAT)

Thursday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. – “BirthRoot Community Doula Alliance: Promoting Healthier Birth Outcomes in the Erie Community” with Tica Nickson, B.S., Executive Director BirthRoot - Community Conversation

Thursday, March 14 at 7 p.m. – “The ‘War on Drugs’ and Its Impact on Communities of Color” with Rodney Clark, Ph.D., Psychology and Neuroscience Professor, Allegheny College 

Thursday, March 21 at 7 p.m. – “Erie’s Black Wall Street: How a Local Non-Profit Works to Empower Black Entrepreneurs” with Kyra Taylor, B.A., Executive Director, Erie’s Black Wall Street - Community Conversation

Fairview – Lincoln Community Library

Monday, Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. – “A History of Black Education in America” with Johnny Johnson, M.Ed., JES Scholar-in-Residence - Black History Month Lecture

Monday, Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. – “Far From Boring! - Making Physics Exciting and Fun” with Karim Hossain, Ph.D., Physics and Technology Professor, PennWest Edinboro - Science demonstration

Monday, March 18 at 6 p.m. – “When a Child is Worth More than the Worst Mistake He Ever Made” with Antonio Howard, Artist and Author – Lecture, Book Sale, and Signing

Corry - Corry Higher Education Council

Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 6 p.m. – “Corry Higher Education Council: The Future of Workforce Education” with Matthew Platz, Ph.D., Executive Director, Corry Higher Education Council - Community Conversation

Tuesday, March 12 at 6 p.m. – “Reinventing Rural with Impact Corry: What’s Happening Now and What’s to Come” with Charles “Chuck” Gray, B.A., Executive Director, Impact Corry - Community Conversation

East County/Harborcreek – Harborcreek Township Building

Wednesday, Feb. 14 at 6 p.m. – “When Erie was Freshwater Fishing Capital of the World” with David Frew, Ph.D., JES Scholar-in-Residence - Local History Lecture

Wednesday, March 6 at 6 p.m. – “All Washed Up - Discover What Washes Up on the Shores of Presque Isle” with the PA Dept. Of Conservation & Natural Resources - Environmental Lecture

Edinboro – PennWest (Edinboro)

Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. – “Movers of Edinboro: Remembering the Leroy and Beatrice Smith Family” with Melinda Meyer, M.B.A., Historian and author - Black History Month and Local History Lecture

Wednesday, March 27 at 6 p.m. - TBA - Save the Date! Program to be Announced Soon - Check JES Website for Details



The Jefferson Educational Society of Erie is a nonprofit and nonpartisan institution founded to promote civic enlightenment and community progress for the Erie region through study, research, and discussion. The JES offers courses, seminars, and lectures that explain the central ideas that have formed the past, assist in exploring the present, and offer guidance to enhance the civic future of the Erie region. As an Erie think tank, the JES promotes knowledge and civic pride through research, the publication of policy papers on public issues, essays, reports, and the sponsorship of civic forums.