A new chapter

Virtual book club launches with online event

Elaine Weiss, an award-winning journalist and author, will speak at a virtual event on April 16, at 7 p.m., with Wheaton alumni, faculty, staff, parents and others to discuss The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote as part of the college’s new online book club. The event will be moderated by Wheaton College President Dennis M. Hanno and Donna Kerner, professor of anthropology.

Launched by Wheaton College’s Alumni Relations Office, the virtual book club kicked off in mid-March. The Woman’s Hour, chosen in honor of the 100th anniversary of the women’s suffrage movement, shares the remarkable true stories behind the women who fought for the right to vote.

The new club aims to bring together the Wheaton community to read and engage in lively discussions on a variety of books. So far, 362 people have signed up to participate in the club, which will feature five books per year. These readers will have the opportunity to take part in an online forum; future selections will be chosen based on recommendations from club members.

Patricia Turcotte, senior assistant director, alumni engagement, said the idea for a virtual book club emerged after she participated in an in-person faculty and staff book club on campus with Professor and English Department Chair Deyonne Bryant.

“At that time, I thought it would be a great idea to open up the book club to local alumni. The response resulted in a few alumni reading the book and attending the author discussion on campus,” she said.

Turcotte wanted to expand the scope of the book club to involve more alumni, but it wasn’t until she went to the Northeast Alumni Relations conference in July 2019 at Amherst College that she was presented with a practical way to make that happen. Soon, Wheaton partnered with the company Professional Book Club (PBC) Guru, a company that works with businesses, alumni associations and professional societies, to create platforms to launch such clubs.

Alumni who have signed up so far are enthusiastic about yet another opportunity to connect with the Wheaton community.

Among the comments alumni made regarding why they signed up, common themes emerged about what they hoped to accomplish by joining: reading more frequently, hearing different perspectives, picking up a book they normally wouldn’t gravitate toward, and intellectual growth with Wheaton friends.

“I love reading and enjoy having recommended books to read,” said Jean Brennan Horend ’57, an English literature major. “The thought of combining that with my love of Wheaton is pleasing. I hope to further my feeling of being part of the Wheaton community by my reading.”

The virtual book club aligns with Wheaton’s strategic goals, which include engaging alumni in the life of the college, Turcotte said. “We hope to accomplish this and provide lifelong learning.”

Visit the Wheaton registration page to sign up or learn more about the college’s virtual book club.