After a Decade The Schemel Forum Thrives at Scranton

Feb 15, 2017

More than a decade after its founding, the Schemel Forum at The University of Scranton has become a beacon of enlightenment ­– providing opportunities for the University community and our neighbors to explore the intellectual and cultural wonders of the world. It also helps us understand emerging global trends and make sense of today’s most complex issues.

A program of the Harry and Jeanette Memorial Library, the Schemel Forum offers courses, luncheon seminars and culturally-based bus excursions. Local residents can attend presentations by national and international experts in their fields, including members of the University faculty.

The Schemel Forum was founded in July 2006 by friends of the late George Schemel, S.J., in his loving memory. Spearheaded by Harmar Brereton, M.D., and nurtured by Sondra Myers, its director, the forum has grown from a handful of informal lectures to a vibrant, comprehensive program of enrichment.

Extraordinary wisdom and vision

Dr. Brereton, clinical professor of medicine at the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine in Scranton, recalls Fr. Schemel as “a man of extraordinary wisdom and vision who served as an exemplary interface between The University of Scranton and the community at large.”

A native of Archbald, George Schemel graduated from the University in 1952 with bachelor’s degrees in physics and mathematics, earned advanced degrees at Fordham University and received his theological training in the U.S. and Rome. Upon his return to our region, Fr. Schemel took part in developing Scranton’s Jesuit Center in Wernersville, which serves the entire Jesuit community in the U.S. He later established the Institute for Contemporary Spirituality at the University.

“No one was more informed about Jesuit spirituality and its connection to Jungian psychology than Fr. Schemel,” said Dr. Brereton, who responded to the priest’s belief that the teachings of St. Ignatius could be applied to other religious communities, nonreligious organizations, and an individual’s life and work.

Dr. Brereton and other local physicians, who wanted their practices to encompass more than science and medicine, recruited Fr. Schemel to bring his unique perspective to their organizations. At the same time, Dr. Brereton and some of his colleagues began looking for ways to satisfy their own hunger for personal fulfillment through humanistic education.

Roots and branches

This educational initiative started informally in fall 2005 with two seminars on campus: one on Dante’s The Divine Comedy, taught by Rebecca Beal, Ph.D., professor of English at The University of Scranton; and one on The Federalist Papers, taught by Scranton attorney Morey M. Myers. Both seminars were successful, and the students ­– professors, lawyers, doctors, civic leaders and other community members  – were eager to participate in more such illuminating learning experiences. Early in 2006, Dr. Beal led a seminar on Virgil’s Aeneid, and Myers collaborated with University provost Hal Baillie and former University President William J. Byron, S.J., to offer a seminar titled “The Individual and Society.”

With momentum building, there was no turning back. Through generous gifts to the Rev. George Schemel, S.J., Fund, The Schemel Forum was born. Sondra Myers – a widely sought-after speaker, writer and consultant on the arts, humanities and civil society – became its director. Nationally and internationally recognized for her efforts to make education, culture and democracy accessible to all citizens, Myers also was named senior fellow for international, civic and cultural projects at the University.

“Harmar Brereton envisioned the promise of the Schemel Forum and was its first real supporter,” said Sondra Myers. “He planted the seeds and we have been cultivating the garden ever since.”

A community of engagement

“The city of Scranton has a vibrant civic culture, and through the Schemel Forum, we offer its residents opportunities for cultural and intellectual stimulation typically associated with a metropolitan area,” said Myers. She is also proud that the program attracts not only a strong following of local attendees, but also distinguished speakers who enjoy the Schemel experience and return visits.

For example, the spring 2017 lineup includes seminars with returnees Steven Kinzer, author and senior fellow in international and public affairs at Brown University; Jill Dougherty, global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and former CNN Moscow Bureau chief; Annie Cohen-Solal, Ph.D., cultural historian and professor of American studies at the Université de Caen; and David Myers, Ph.D,. professor of Jewish history at UCLA (and son of Sondra and Morey Myers). Evening courses are again being taught by University professors Sean Brennan, Ph.D., in the History Department; and Matthew Meyer, Ph.D., in the Philosophy Department. “Presenters often comment that participants listen attentively and ask very good questions,” Sondra Myers said.

“The quotes below give testimony that the Schemel Forum is a shared experience, which benefits everyone involved and reflects well on The University of Scranton,” Myers added. “In the aftermath of an extraordinarily divisive presidential campaign and the dawn of an unusually uncertain future, Dr. Beal’s prophetic comment says it best: ‘We need Schemel now more than ever!’”

For more information on Schemel Forum programs and memberships, contact Sondra Myers at 570-941-4089 or

Said about The Schemel Forum

“Schemel provides the community with a place for inquiry and civic discourse. We need Schemel now more than ever!”

Rebecca Beal, Ph.D., Professor of English, The University of Scranton

“The Schemel Forum is a treasure, focusing as it does on fresh considerations of the pressing issues of the day. What a pleasure it’s been to participate in the conversation!”

Fredrik Logevall, Ph.D., Laurence D. Belfer Professor of International Affairs, Harvard University

"The Schemel Forum’s offerings always challenge my opinions and help me understand what’s going on in the world. Every semester Schemel brings me intellectual stimulation and great satisfaction.”

Mary Rhodes, Schemel Forum member

“The Schemel Forum has given us wonderful opportunities to learn with and from new and old friends about literature, philosophy, history, science and government – all guided by the outstanding faculty of the University of Scranton and guest lecturers of national renown.”

Carole and Bob Wright, Schemel Forum members

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