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City on a Hill: Urban Idealism in America from the Puritans to the Present

Alex Krieger in conversation with Edward Augustus and Scott Casper

Tuesday, June 6, 2023, at 7:00 pm ET

Approximately 60 minutes. This hybrid program will be held in person at Antiquarian Hall and livestreamed to a virtual audience on YouTube. Advance registration is required for both. Doors open at 6:30pm. Closed captioning will be available for virtual attendees.

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A common refrain is that Americans dislike cities, favoring places at some distance from the buzz and complexities of urban life. But what if Americans have instead been intrigued by cities of their imagination, rather than those at their feet? The first European settlers saw America as a paradise regained. The continent seemed to offer a God-given opportunity to start again and build the perfect community. Those messianic days are gone, but as Alex Krieger argues in City on a Hill, any attempt at understanding how the country has developed must first recognize the persistent and dramatic consequences of utopian dreaming. Even as ideals have changed, idealism itself has for better and worse shaped our world of bricks and mortar, macadam, parks, and farmland. In this hybrid program, Krieger will explore this uniquely American story from the Pilgrims to the “smart city,” and will deliver a striking new history of our built environment.

Alex Krieger is professor emeritus at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and principal at NBBJ, a global architecture and planning firm. Former chair of Harvard’s Department of Urban Planning and Design, director of the Urban Design Degree Programs, and the director of the National Endowment for the Arts Mayor’s Institute on City Design, Krieger remains an advisor to cities, educational institutions, and their planning staffs, and serves on a number of boards and commissions. This includes a just completed second four-year term on the U. S. Fine Arts Commission. He has directed urban design and urban waterfront projects in American and international cities, including the reconstruction of the Bund in Shanghai. His latest publication is City on a Hill: Urban Idealism in America from the Puritans to the Present. Krieger was elected to AAS membership in October 2012.

Worcester native Edward M. Augustus Jr., is a graduate of St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury and Suffolk University. He holds a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and has worked in public service for more than thirty years. His career began at the age of twenty-three when he was appointed to the City of Worcester’s Human Rights Commission. A few months later, he was elected to the Worcester School Committee. After serving two terms on the School Committee, he moved to Washington, DC where he worked in President Clinton’s United States Department of Education from 1992-1998. From 1998-2004 he served as U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern’s chief of staff in Washington. He has also served two terms in the Massachusetts State Senate, representing Worcester’s 2nd District. Augustus then became director of government and community relations at the College of the Holy Cross. He was appointed city manager of Worcester in January 2014 and served until early 2022. During his tenure, Augustus focused on continuing Worcester ‘s economic development, supporting education and youth, and making city government inclusive for all residents of New England’s second-largest city. Most recently, he served as the first ever chancellor at Dean College in Franklin, MA. Augustus was elected to AAS membership in October 2015.

Scott Casper was appointed the eighth president of the Society in December 2020. A historian of the nineteenth-century United States, he has been associated with AAS for three decades, beginning as a Peterson Fellow in 1990. Before joining AAS he served as dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences and professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and as Foundation Professor of history at the University of Nevada, Reno. Casper is the author of Sarah Johnson’s Mount Vernon: The Forgotten History of an American Shrine (2008) and Constructing American Lives: Biography and Culture in Nineteenth-Century America (1999), which won the book prize of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing. Casper was elected to AAS membership in April 1999.

TidePool Bookshop Interested in purchasing a copy of City on a Hill? Worcester's TidePool Bookshop will be at the program selling copies to in-person attendees. If you'd like to purchase the book online, please visit their website.

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