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The 2016 English-Speaking Union Annual Conference

The 2016 English-Speaking Union Annual Conference, hosted by the Central Florida ESU Branch, drew members from all over the country to the Sheraton Orlando North Hotel in Maitland (Winter Park) for an enjoyable and productive weekend October 13 – 15, 2016.  Business sessions included a meeting of the National Board of Directors, a working conclave for the National Board and Branch Presidents, and meetings of the ESU Branches by Region.  The 96th Annual General Meeting of the English-Speaking Union took place on Saturday, October 15.

The primary function of the National Board meeting was adoption of the English-Speaking Union Strategic Plan for English in Action which the Board had developed during the prior year, and which will guide the Board in its organizational activities through the next five years.  Discussion of the Strategic Plan and final steps in the restructuring of the Branches into Limited Liability Companies formed agenda discussion items for the Board and Branch Presidents Conclave.  A summary of the Strategic Plan may be seen on the ESU website at here:

This year's ESU Annual Conference was themed "The English-Speaking Union -- Shakespeare400" in recognition of the ESU's part in the global celebration of the Bard's legacy throughout 2016.  Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen was the keynote speaker at the Conference's opening dinner.  He expertly and most engagingly -- through speech, slides and video presentations -- drew the ESU members into the current debate over whether the language of Shakespeare should be "modernized" or altered to be more comprehensible and accessible to young American audiences.  Dr. Cohen is ably suited to present the topic, as he is Co-Founder and Director of Mission at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia and Gonder Professor of Shakespeare at Mary Baldwin University. He was project director for building the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, a working replica of the Globe Theater, which has staged more productions of Shakespeare and his contemporaries than any professional theater in the world.  In addition to his many directing and teaching engagements, Dr. Cohen is author of ShakesFear and How to Cure It: A Handbook for Teaching Shakespeare, and he has served frequently as a judge in the English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition.

Continuing the Shakespeare400 theme, the luncheon speaker on Saturday was Dr. Maurice J. O'Sullivan who deftly wove the works and legacy of Shakespeare into an amusing and informative description of the history and culture of Florida.  Dr. O'Sullivan is Kenneth Curry Professor of English at Rollins College as well as scholar, columnist and filmmaker.  He is very active as a Board Member of the ESU Central Florida Branch and Director of the Florida Center for Shakespeare Studies.

Dr. Paul Beresford-Hill CBE, KSt.J, Chairman of The English-Speaking Union of the United States, opened the 96th Annual General Meeting on the afternoon of Saturday October 15.  The meeting comprised reports of the Chairman and President, Dr. E. Quinn Peeper, as well as the Treasurer, Branch Services Committee Chair and Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee.  Predominant among these presentations were the success and approval of the Board's Strategic Plan and the nearly-complete restructuring of Branches into Limited Liability Companies (LLCs).  Prominent in the presentations by the Executive Director, Deputy Executive Director and Director of Education were illustrated updates on the educational programs of the ESU including benchmarks of students, teachers and volunteers served by those programs.  Of special note was announcement of the launch of an expansion of the Teachers Learning Abroad – UK (TLab-UK, formerly BUSS) program to provide additional short term courses throughout the year at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Shakespeare's Globe and Oxford University to engage a larger number of teachers and members and to retain them as ESU activists and to raise funds.  These courses will be added to the flagship three- to four-week scholarship programs that will continue at Shakespeare's Globe and Oxford and Edinburgh Universities.

Also during the Annual General Meeting, the membership unanimously voted to approve the proposed slate of candidates for a two-year term to the Board of Directors.  Those prior Board members elected to a second or third term are Donald Best, Los Angeles, CA; Darrell W. Hill, Chicago, IL; Christopher Hodgkins, Greensboro, NC; E. Quinn Peeper, President, New Orleans, LA; Laura J. Phelps, Vice Chair, San Francisco, CA; and Hollister Sturges, Treasurer, Greenwich, CT.  New Board members are Cheryl A. Albuquerque, San Francisco, CA; Jacques Brunswick, New York, NY; Duncan Karcher, New York, NY; and Bettie McGowin Miller, Chapman, AL.  Their biographical information follows:

Cheryl A. Albuquerque, MD is Board certified in maternal fetal medicine and obstetrics and gynecology and she is an Executive Physician Master in Business Administration.  She currently serves as Director of Perinatal Outreach at Valley Children's Hospital in Fresno, CA and Director for Perinatal Ultrasound-Obtained-AIUM accreditation.  Prior to that Cheryl served as a Perinatologist at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, CA; Center for Perinatal Medicine in Spokane, Washington; and University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria.  She undertook her medical studies at Grant Medical College, Bombay University, Bombay India.  Dr. Albuquerque is widely published in prominent medical journals, and she has received numerous awards for her research and teaching.  Dr. Albuquerque is a member of the San Francisco Branch.

Jacques Brunswick has been Chief Operating Officer of the famous Apollo Theater since 2013.  Prior to joining the Apollo, Jacques was the Chief Administrative Officer of the nation's premier regional theater, The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN, where he successfully managed the Theater through its first six seasons in a new $125 million, 285,000 square foot facility.  He was responsible for the business affairs, bottom line, and operations of three theaters, two restaurants, and eleven bars with an annual attendance of 420,000 and an operating budget of $28 million.  Earlier he served as Vice President, Finance and Administration/CFO of the Mystic Seaport Museum, supervising finance, facilities, construction, IT, HR, museum stores, and food services for America's premier 17-acre maritime museum.  He was also Vice President Finance and Administration/CFO of BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) where he directed the finances and administration of this internationally recognized four-theater performing arts center.  In addition to supervising finance, MIS, box office, building management, construction, personnel, and concessions, Jacques also handled government relations, union contracts, and real estate development, including the renovation of the Majestic Theater, now known as the Harvey Theater.  He holds an MA in Business Administration from the Bolz Center for Arts Administration, University of Wisconsin, Madison.  Jacques and his wife live in New York and have two grown sons.

Duncan Karcher is currently Director of Warranty Operations at Starr Insurance Holdings, and in that role he manages and coordinates all operational issues pertaining to Starr's Warranty Division including Legal, Audit, Compliance, Systems, Claims, Actuarial, and Finance/Accounting groups.  Prior to that, Mr. Karcher was with AIG as Head of Global Loss Prevention, and since 1995 he has served in various capacities within the Starr Companies.  He has also served as Financial Administrator for Unisys Corporation and Assistant Vice President for the Wilder Richman Management Corporation.  Duncan earned his MBA in Finance at New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business and received his BS in Quantitative Analysis Cum Laude from St. John's University College of Business Administration.  Residing in New York City, Duncan has been an active Board Member on the PTA of his children's schools.

Bettie McGowin Miller was born in Greenville, AL and attended The Madeira School.  She graduated from Briarcliff College with an Associates Degree in Music and from Finch College with a BA in English Literature.   In addition, she undertook Julliard studies in music history, theory and chorus.  Bettie also engaged in independent study courses including Botany, Zoology and English Literature at the University of Alabama; Music and piano, under Jean Cassadesus and Nadia Boulanger at the French Ecole in Fountainebleau; and Music and piano, under Grant Johannesen at the Aspen Music Festival.    She has worked in sales with Gumps in San Francisco and is Chef and owner of Phantom Cook Catering in San Francisco and is author of The Phantom Cookbook.   Bettie has two children and two grandchildren and resides in Chapman, AL.

Saturday evening, all English-Speaking Union National Patrons attending the Conference were honored at a reception at the Cornell Fine Art Museum of Rollins College.  The Museum contains more than 5,000 works from the early Renaissance to cutting-edge contemporary.  Patrons enjoyed guided tours of the special exhibition This Side of Modernism: Twentieth-Century American and British Artists, with treasures including paintings by Vanessa Bell and Roger Fry, and rarely seen works by Reginald Marsh, Graham Sutherland, and John Sloan

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Sunday, the final day of the ESU Annual Conference, featured brunch in downtown Winter Park followed by tours of the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum, which houses the world's most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, including jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass, leaded-glass lamps and windows; his chapel interior from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago; and art and architectural objects from his Long Island country estate, Laurelton Hall.  The Museum's holdings also include American art pottery, late 19th- and early 20th-century American painting, graphics, decorative art.  The museum tour brought the weekend conference to a dazzling close. 

Special thanks go to the ESU Central Florida Branch for hosting the 2016 Annual Conference, particularly Branch President Frank Paul Barber and host committee volunteers Barbara Hughes, Gisela Davis and Jackie Abrams.

To see the Conference Photo Album, click here:

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