Scholars Notebook May 2015



Introduction and interview of Dr. Mary Stroll,
this year’s recipient of the Helen Hawkins Award

Voting – Tallying  
2015-2016 Slate of Officers

From the President

At our May SDIS meeting, we’ll feature Dr. Mary Stroll, regarding her research on an intriguing period of the papacy. We’ll have a dialogue between Gerry Horwitz and Mary, highlighting her long-term, distinguished career as an independent scholar. The second presentation is information from SDIS members on the results of this year’s SDIS election.  

But, first we must gather the votes. You will soon receive a ballot listing the slate of candidates recommended by our Nominating Committee. Ballots will be sent to members by email or US mail. The majority of members choose to vote early by mail ballot, while the option of voting in person at the May meeting remains intact. 

Your vote is very important to SDIS. However you choose to do it. PLEASE VOTE!

I would like to add that my name is not listed on the ballot for 2015-2016. That is because personal circumstances cause me to relinquish serving my second year as SDIS President, resigning officially as of May 16, 2015. Having so informed the Nominating Committee, it selected a highly qualified candidate to serve as President, 2015-2016.

It is with regret that I am unable to fulfill my term of office but with appreciation for the work of the Nominating Committee, the accomplishments of the SDIS Board of Directors, the leadership and participation of our Study Groups and Discussion Meetings, the contributions of our Non-Board Officials, members’ attendance at Saturday Program Meetings, and all who proudly call themselves members of SDIS. You are a varied, inquisitive, and friendly group of independent scholars. Thank you for voting in this election. 


A Life in Research 

Mary Stroll has come full circle with SDIS. In 1982, she was one of the founders, recognizing  the need for a “surrogate university” for independent scholars. 

Now, as a recipient of the 2015 Helen Hawkins grant, Dr. Stroll is on her way to England to present a paper at the Leeds International Medieval Conference. Her special area of expertise is medieval history, with a focus on the relationship between church and state in 12th - Century Europe. She has written extensively on the papacy during the period of ecclesiastical reform in which Honorius II reigned in the high Middle Ages.

Mary was born in a bucolic area of Iowa, the daughter of a man who loved to read, inspiring in Mary a “lifelong love of reading.” She says she was “a country girl,” who loved the beautiful northeast corner of the state, with its limestone cliffs and caves. Nevertheless, she worked hard to get into college.

An outstanding student at the University of Iowa, in 1955 she was offered a graduate fellowship at Columbia University or a Fulbright to study in Austria. Instead, she married, delaying her advanced studies until the late1960s, when her children were older. Her husband, Dr. Avrum Stroll, was a prominent member of the faculty at UCSD; focusing on analytic philosophy, especially the philosophy of language. 

Mary has taught at Texas Tech, at UCSD, where she earned a Ph.D. in medieval history in 1975, and at San Diego State and Long Beach State. She has been a Visiting Scholar at the Academy of Rome, and received a Fulbright grant for study at the Vatican Library and at the German Historical Institute. Yet she remains a “free lance intellectual,“ with significant books and numerous papers to her credit. And yes, she does research in Latin, as well as Italian, German, and French.

What inspired her to concentrate on medieval history? “I hated history in high school,” says Mary. It was just lists of dates. However, in college she had teachers who inspired her; one was an army veteran who taught Western Civilization; another was a medievalist—both  “investigative thinkers.” Mary was hooked. She enjoyed the analysis, studying problems, the interactions of powerful people and powerful institutions.

She enjoyed analyzing the symbols of power, the role of non-verbal forms of communication, ceremonies.

“I would like to continue doing this the rest of my life,“ says Mary, citing the need to travel, especially to the libraries in Rome, where she has stayed at the American Academy. A good day is one in which she is deeply involved in her research. Mary has a driving need to keep learning. She wants to evaluate things independently – to get around the biases of people who have special interests – to go back to original sources.

Mary also visits Iowa on occasion, meeting with family and friends. And she has been known to enjoy both jazz and the opera.


Cover of Book by Dr. Mary Stroll

 Calixtus II (1119–1124): A Pope Born to Rule,
One of Several Books Written by Mary Stroll
(Photo Permission from Mary Stroll)



Colloquy Café:

Definitions for "corruption," our April topic, include "abuse of bestowed power for one's own benefit" and "to break."  Nepotism is a form of corruption but isn't illegal.  In almost any circumstance, corruption will occur if the expected gain is greater than the penalty.  Predictability is an aspect of successful corruption, but, conversely, a predictable system of laws helps dampen corruption.  Like so many words, corruption is relative and what's considered corrupt is highly objective, varying from culture to culture.  Corruption can be petty, grand, systemic, political, and obvious in most cultures and environments, including unions and education.  While humans are corruptible, they don't see themselves as corrupt.  In summary, what's corruption to some people is merely a way of life to others.

Our May topic is "beauty," to be discussed on 5/20/15…..Mary Ellen Stratthaus

Culture One:

Culture One is using attendance at the CARTA Symposium, "Human-Climate Interactions and Evolution: Past and Future," May 15, 2015, as the basis of our readings, videos, and discussions. For information on the Symposium, see CARTA Website (CARTA:Home), or contact Rosner for information regarding CARTA abstracts, references, registration, and/or transportation

Culture Two:

The Culture Two Study Group expects to continue its focus on India at its next meeting, 1:30 PM, Friday May 22, 2015  

In April, the group began its attention to a series of essays in Reimagining India by reading three essays in the first chapter titled Reimagining (essay titles: The Rediscovery of India, Breakout or Washout, and Towards a Uniquely Indian Growth Model) as well as three essays in the second chapter titled Politics and Policy (essay titles: Federalism: Promise and Peril, Overtaking the Dragon, and The Precocious Experiment). 

In May the group will focus on three essays in each of the two following chapters of the same book: Chapter Three titled Business and Technology (essay titles: Finding the Right Remedy, Solving India’s Most Pressing Challenge, and Power Switch) and Chapter Four titled Challenges (essay titles: Healthcare for All, The Creaky Wheels of Indian Justice, and India’s Farms).

Contact Sam Gusman at for further information or to learn about attending meetings of this group.

Film Group:

The Film Groupwill meet Wednesday, May 6 at10:00 a.m. at the home of Barbara Heckler to view the 2011 drama Footnote. This Israeli film depicts the troubled relationship of a father and son who both teach at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. One critic called it the fourth best film of 2012.  It was a nominee in 2012 for Best Foreign Film.  

Contact Barbara at for information about attending.

Literature Group:

The Literature Group will meet on Monday May 4 at Gerry Horwitz's home to discuss "Parnassus on Wheels" by Christopher Morley-- about a middle-aged woman who revolts from her farm chores to become a traveling book sales woman in early 20th century America. Carol Gartner will lead the discussion. Please call Gerry if you would like to join us. 


The group has been reading Damasio’s “Self Comes to Mind.” Meetings are on “hold,” and will be rescheduled.


Saturday, May 16, 2015
1:30 –3:30 PM

Free and Open to the Public

Room 111A,
Chancellor’s Complex
UCSD Campus

Free Parking in the 
Gilman Parking Structure

This event, like all monthly meetings of SDIS, is free and open to the public. A question/discussion period follows the talk. The Chancellor’s Complex is a low building opposite the large Price Center at the end of Myers Drive, which runs north from Gilman Drive. 

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Helen Hawkins Memorial Research Fund Award Recipient: Dr. Mary Stroll

This year’s Helen Hawkins Memorial Research Fund Award will be given to Dr. Mary Stroll at the SDIS General Meeting, May 16, 2015. At that meeting, she will summarize her research paper, “Honorius II (1124-1130): an Enigma” to be presented at the Leeds International Medieval Conference, July 7, 2015, Leeds, UK.

Subject of Dr. Mary Stroll's 2015 Research
(Public Domain Image)  


Breakfast Roundtable

Breakfast Roundtable meets Monday, May 18, at Coco’s, 9:30 to 11 for breakfast and roundtable discussion. Coco’s is located in University City at the intersection of Genesee and Nobel Drive in the Costa Verde shopping Center. To make a reservation, contact Barbara Heckler,, by the Saturday prior to the meeting. Don’t hesitate to email at the last minute – we’ll make space! 

Supper with Scholars

Now meets on the 2nd Thursday of every month at 6 pm at Humphreys La Jolla Restaurant, 3299 Holiday Court, La Jolla. Meals from the menu (see are Dutch Treat. If you plan to attend, please RSVP to, stating whether you are coming alone or bringing friend(s).

The next meeting is May 14.

Group discussion is based on suggested topics that have particularly interested the attendees in the last month. If possible, we select a question that can be addressed from the viewpoints of the various areas of expertise of the participants, which are ordinarily quite diverse, ranging from the humanities to natural sciences to social sciences to various professions. If some subject has particularly interested you during the past month, please suggest it.—











Study Groups
Times, Sites, Contacts

Colloquy Café
May 20, 2015
At the Vi
Contact: M.E. Stratthaus

Culture One
May 15, 2015
At the CARTA Symposium
Contact: Sue Rosner

Culture Two
May 22, 2015
Contact: Sam Gusman

Film Group
May 6, 2015
10 a.m.
At Barbara’s home
Contact: Barbara Heckler

Literature Group
May 4, 2015
Host: Gerry Horwitz
For info. call:619-224-5664

Science Group
To be rescheduled.
Contact: Bea Rose