Mary Finn is Polis’ founder and director. Mary started Polis from a need to “scratch an itch”- she’s long had a desire to cultivate and be a part of an intentional community of Bay Area adults who share a desire to learn and grow through an engagement with the liberal arts and sciences.
Mary’s own academic background and life experiences have led her to realize that a life filled with learning and community is a life well lived. Mary holds Master’s degrees from St. John’s College in Santa Fe and Brown University. At St. John’s, she studied Western philosophy and the foundational texts of the modern liberal arts and sciences. Mary has twice been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. With the support of the NEH, Mary studied American Fictional Utopias at St. Mary’s College (Moraga, CA) and conducted an in-depth study of the writings of philosopher Hannah Arendt at Bard College (NY). Mary has worked for the past 15 years as a teacher and school leader in the Washington, D.C. Public Schools and she currently works in the San Francisco Unified School District. She was also employed as a political organizer for the Obama for America campaign in South Western, CO in 2008. Mary is working to build the Polis community using her experience as a teacher and political organizer and she invites community members to join her in this project.
Dr. Jones is a former professor of women’s studies at San Diego State University, who published award-winning books on feminism and the women’s movement. Kathleen’s academic writing includes Compassionate Authority: Democracy and the Representation of Women (1993), The Political Interests of Gender (1988), Women Transforming (1997). She was also the co-editor of the International Feminist Journal of Politics. Kathleen Jones left her academic position to pursue her writing career and she is currently living in the UK. In addition to Living Between Danger and Love a memoir about a student’s murder, she has written and produced a play, Acts of Faith, completed another memoir, and is working on an historical novel and a collection of satirical short stories. Kathleen has an upcoming work available for purchase that will be released within the next few months on Hannah Arendt titled, Diving for Pearl: My Thinking Journey With Hannah Arendt. The Polis community is invited to follow Kathy and her writing on her website.
Robert was born and raised in Page County, Iowa, where his family, without moving more than a dozen miles at a single jump, lived in four different towns and nine different houses while he was growing up. After leaving home and going out on his own he extended the range but kept the pattern, living in Missouri, Connecticut (twice), Massachusetts, Illinois (twice), Iowa (again) and Wisconsin. He now divides his time between New Mexico and Mississippi. “The mind,” Milton makes one of his devils say in Paradise Lost, “is its own place.” In Dr. Richardson’s case it has turned out to be a house on wheels. Given his itinerant ways he was fortunate to find a place to settle where he could stay put without ceasing to roam. He joined the faculty of St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1985, where a broad program of undergraduate studies composed of science, mathematics, music, literature and philosophy, offered ample occasion for his intellectual ramblings. When he was about to fulfill the institutional expectation that he would teach everything in the program and might have started to wonder what to think about next, the college added a course of study in Eastern Classics that gave him a chance to acquaint himself with the major philosophical, literary and religious works of India, China and Japan.
He began his teaching career at Shimer College in 1965, after earning a BA in History from Park College and while still working on a PhD in Philosophy from Yale University which he completed in 1969. He later taught at Cornell College and the University of Wisconsin. Although he has spent more of his life teaching than doing anything else, he has worked at many other jobs including farmhand, store clerk, construction worker, carpenter, summer stock theater manager, real estate salesman and auctioneer. His essays, poems and stories have appeared in a variety of publications such as The North American Review, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, The Mother Earth News, Orion, Uzzano, Farming Magazine and The St. John’s Review. He has written two works of fiction, Promptings of Necessity, published by Sunstone Press (2010) and spacebookthenovel, published by Pagescape Press (2013).
David is the co-founder and current director of the Symposium Great Books Institute. The Institute is located in San Antonio, TX and runs both in-person seminars and iseminars. David writes, “In Paradise Lost by John Milton, Adam says to Eve that none of the beauties of nature means anything if he cannot share them with her. That’s the way I feel about reading the masterworks of human thought and imagination. These are the works which are indispensable for an understanding of ourselves and our world, but they are also the locus of the deepest and most abiding controversies in the realm of human discourse. They simply beg to be discussed and argued over.” David has read these works with many different discussion groups – first in undergraduate and graduate school at St. John’s College, and then Symposium San Francisco, and now in San Antonio and via the SGBI virtual seminars – and it never ceases to David what new ideas and insights offer themselves in the course of conversations with people who care to read and talk together in earnest. David invites the Polis community to follow the Symposium Great Books Institute and consider joining an iseminar.