More than 160 UC San Diego Library friends and supporters attended this year’s Dinner in the Library, September 9, featuring award-winning NPR journalist Ari Shapiro, who regaled guests with his personal insights and experiences covering the news of the moment, from the wars in Afghanistan and Ukraine to the Obama White House and the U.S. justice system.
This year’s Dinner in the Library, hosted by UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla and University Librarian Brian Schottlaender, was a smashing success, breaking prior attendance and fundraising records, and featuring a number of new enhancements, including a popular champagne and dessert reception. The event raised $212,000, which will be used to support the Library’s collections, services, and learning spaces. One of the Library’s top priorities according to Brian Schottlaender is to raise funds for the Geisel Library Revitalization Initiative, launched last year after the Library’s benefactor, Audrey Geisel, donated $3 million to help renovate and upgrade the learning and study spaces in the building, which was built in 1970. The renovation includes the 1st and 2nd floors which are the most heavily used, as well as the 8th (top) floor of the building, which boasts spectacular, panoramic views of La Jolla and beyond.
At the event, Chancellor Khosla announced his commitment to a $1 million matching grant for gifts made to Geisel Library Revitalization Initiative, underscoring the significance of the Geisel renovation project to the campus.
“It is our hope that the 8th floor renovation will be completed by September of next year, in time to hold our next Dinner in the Library,” said Chancellor Khosla. “Philanthropic support is key to making this possible.”
Brian Schottlaender thanked our generous sponsors, especially lead sponsor Audrey Geisel, and Jeanne Jones, who chaired the first honorary committee for Dinner in the Library. Honorary committee members included: Rita L. and Richard C. Atkinson; Mary Ann Beyster; Linden and Ronne Blue; Joye D. Blount and Jessie J. Knight, Jr.; Donald Breitenberg; Jessica Cline; Phyllis and Daniel J. Epstein; Theresa and Standish Fleming; Alison and George Gildred; Jane and Edgar Gillenwaters; Karen Haynes and James Mickelson; Jeanne and Gary Herberger; Reena and Sam Horowitz; Margret and Nevins McBride; Sandra Redman and Jeff Mueller; Zandra Rhodes and Salah Hassanein; and Dixie and Ken Unruh.
This year’s sponsors for Dinner in the Library included Audrey S. Geisel/Dr. Seuss Foundation; Karen B. Dow; Don and Maryann Lyle; Diane and John Berol; The Evans Foundation; James M. Hall; Julianne J. Larsen and James Forbes; UC San Diego Alumni Association; Rita L. and Richard C. Atkinson; Joye D. Blount and Jessie J. Knight Jr.; Carol and Jeffrey Chang; Ruth Covell, MD; Joel and Nancy Dimsdale; Elsevier B.V.; Theresa and Standish Fleming; Jeanne Jones and Don Breitenberg and The San Diego Foundation. KPBS was the media sponsor, and Show Imaging was the audiovisual underwriter.
The undisputed highlight of the evening was Ari Shapiro, who was celebrating his 1 year anniversary as co-host of NPR’s popular All Thing’s Considered program. Shapiro also has served as NPR’s international correspondent based in London, from which he traveled the world, covering a wide range of news, including wars in Iraq, Ukraine, and Israel, for NPR’s national news programs.
Shapiro, who studied English in college, expressed his love for novels and story-telling, as well as his appreciation for libraries as the places that not only preserve knowledge and history, but also by their very existence create an intellectual and cultural space for novelists and journalists alike.
“I promised to talk about the news tonight, but I’d like to do that by way of fiction,” said Shapiro. “Being in this amazing building, it feels appropriate to pay tribute to those writers whose imaginations have helped us to better understand the world. While I’m a journalist, I majored in English in college and spent my time reading novels, plays, and poetry. I’ve always found that fiction illuminates the world in ways that nonfiction sometimes falls short.”
A good example of this, he said, was when he was preparing for a trip to Eastern India earlier this year for a story on climate change, and how it had impacted people living in the Sundarbans.
“The Sundarbans are this incredible patchwork landscape of mangrove islands in this tidal estuary where islands disappear and reappear with the tides, and Bengal tigers swim between the islands. A book I had read about the Sundarbans back in 2006, The Hungry Tide, by Amitav Ghosh, stuck so vividly in my head that I decided to contact the author,” he said.
An interview that Shapiro had with the author painted a much more compelling and authentic picture of what has been happening in the Sundarbans, he said, than a work of nonfiction could have. As a journalist, he often talks to writers and novelists, who help him to reflect on the news in different ways.
Shapiro also talked about the real disconnect that often exists between those directly impacted by war vs. those who have never lived with bombs falling around them.
“As Americans, we’ve certainly fought in a number of wars, but we haven’t had to live with a war, day in and day out, on our soil,” he said. “The many miles between us make it easy to write people off as ‘war people,’ but those people forced to live with war are not that different from us. They were dentists, teachers, and construction workers before a war changed everything. It’s necessary to go beyond the label of “refugee” in order to really understand the situation.”