The Elizabeth and Robert Plumleigh Speaker Series Boasts an Impressive Line-Up
This year’s Elizabeth and Robert Plumleigh Speaker series will feature an impressive roster of scholars, authors and artists covering topics that range from the growing Catholic community in the People’s Republic of China to the role faith plays in creative writing to the development of a Christian consciousness in today’s Catholic Church.
“Anti-modern Theology and Pre-Modern Practice: Catholic Indigenization from Below in Modern China” by Richard Madsen, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of California, San Diego, Director, UC Fudan Center and co-author with Robert Bellah and others of Habits of the Heart and The Good Society
“The Beginning of Vision: Catholic Writing in a Critical Age" by Paul Elie, Senior Fellow at the Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University, Director of the American Pilgrimage Project, former Editor at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, and renowned author of The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage. (Winner of the PEN/Martha Albrand Award and nominee for National Book Critics Circle Award) and the recently released, critically acclaimed Reinventing Bach
“Forming One’s Conscience in a Polarized Church” by Fr. James L. Heft, S.M., Alton Brooks Professor of Religion at USC and President of the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies, whose books include Catholic High Schools: Facing the New Realities, Learned Ignorance: Intellectual Humility Among Jews, Christians and Muslims and Ed. (with John O’Malley, S.J.) of After Vatican II
The Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies, a research-oriented institution dedicated to developing and disseminating a greater understanding of the Catholic tradition, also supports ecumenical and inter-faith explorations. Located at the University of Southern California, it offers free of charge an annual lecture series for the benefit of people on and beyond the campus. Local, national, and international scholars are invited to speak on the rich and varied dimensions of Catholicism, examining its history and development, its current condition and possibilities, and the multiple ways in which it has and ought to interact with society, governments, and other religions. MORE
The Institute is especially grateful to Bob and Betty Plumleigh for their generosity and support of this important program.
Elizabeth and Robert Plumleigh with Fr. Heft
By Ginny DeFrank
"If you don't talk to people, you don't hear!"
"And you don't learn anything!"
These thoughts from Bob and Betty Plumleigh, respectively, encapsulate this dynamic duo's philosophy for living life to the fullest. For Betty and Bob, life is an adventure, and they take great joy in making new friends along the way – learning about these friends' interests and passions. Fortunately for the Institute of the Advancement of Catholic Studies at USC, Father James L. Heft, S.M., is one such friend.
When askde about the beginnings of their friendship, Mr. Plumleigh explained, "We met Fr. Heft on the way to a football game!" Apparently Fr. Heft mistook the couple's flamboyant USC shirts for Halloween costumes, as the game coincided with Halloween weekend. Fr. Heft jokingly explained his collar was not a costume, and he was surprised to learn from the Plumleighs that they too were wearing their typical game day garb.
Enthusiastic supporters of a wide variety of programs, initiatives, and schools at the University of Southern California, the Plumleighs are renowned for their generosity toward organizations doing work they believe in. Through their friendship with Father Heft, the Plumleighs have become great supporters of the Institute, pledging $150,000 to its needs over the next three years.
Mrs. Plumleigh gave Fr. Heft's work with the Institute a ringing endorsement. "I think he's doing a great job! We enjoy coming to campus for events and lectures." Her husband was equally impressed with Fr. Heft, saying, "He's very friendly, very warm, and always gathering people around him. Every time you have a discussion, you're always learning something more about him and through him."
But beyond his scholarship and leadership, the Plumleighs felt Fr. Heft's friendship and devotion to their family is what truly makes him a remarkable priest. When Mr. Plumleigh fell ill, Fr. Heft visited their Orange County home and celebrated mass. "That was outstanding," said Mrs. Plumleigh, "Just outstanding."
"We've been fortunate in that the priests we have been involved with are like family to us. Our faith has been much more interesting because of it, and we're much more involved with the Church," said Mr. Plumleigh.
The Plumleighs' commitment to the Institute extends well beyond their close relationship with Fr. Heft, however, as they are strong supporters of its mission to engage scholars in dialogue about the most pressing issues facing faith in modern society. "What a great thing the Institute is doing by bringing churches and the understanding of churches together. It is great for us, and it is great for people on the whole," said Mr. Plumleigh. "We need it! We need to bring people together," Mrs. Plumleigh added emphatically.
The Plumleighs are certainly experts at bringing people together. This cosmopolitan couple regularly travels internationally to spend time with business associates from Mr. Plumleigh's importing business who have since become life-long friends. From participating in wedding ceremonies in France, to sharing an interfaith Seder dinner with their good friend and former USC professor, Shelley Berman, the Plumleighs are enthusiastic about celebrating the joys of friendship, wherever and whenever possible. "We have the best time," Mrs. Plumleigh said smiling.
Wherever they go, the Plumleighs find ways to help those in need, sharing their resources with organizations and individuals who have goals and visions that would not possible without philanthropic support. Those who benefit from their incredible generosity, like the Institute for the Advancement of Catholic Studies, really understand the meaning of the Plumleighs' friendship.