Millersville’s ‘One Book, One Campus’: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Nikki Schaffer
Features Editor

We all remember a time when a book we have read has changed our former perceptions and perhaps instilled in us a new way of thinking. Often, the books which touch us the most make us stop and ask questions of ourselves.

Every year, the university invites the incoming freshman class and the Millersville community to read a carefully selected book that they believe will facilitate discussion, challenge previously held notions and most importantly, incite new ideas.

On Thursday, Oct. 30th at 7 p.m. in Pucillo, students, faculty and the community are given the unique opportunity to meet the Lacks family.
On Thursday, Oct. 30th at 7 p.m. in Pucillo, students, faculty and the community are given the unique opportunity to meet the Lacks family.

This year, the Millersville One Book Once Campus (OBOC) Committee selected New York Times bestseller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot to be their OBOC choice, a book which presents questions on issues such as ethics, race and medicine.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells the story of a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells are taken and used without her knowledge in 1951 for the advancement of medicine, becoming vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization.

“The author does an excellent job of making this scientific topic really understandable for the reader because her background is in journalism—not medicine,” says Marilyn Parrish, Millersville University’s Archivist & Special Collections Librarian. “What’s nice about this book is it engages students and the community of what perspective needs to take place in the medical research project. The kind of thing that happened then, wouldn’t happen today.”

Thursday, Oct. 30, at 7 p.m. in Pucillo, students, faculty and the community are given the unique opportunity to meet the Lacks family. Members of the audience will be given the chance to hear how Henrietta’s family members have reacted to hearing that her cells, which are given the nickname “HeLa” in the science community, have been used in laboratories around the world.

Those who attend are encouraged to bring their questions in order to participate in an interactive panel discussion with Lack’s family members and to bring a copy of their book for the book signing.

Millersville University classrooms have come alive with questions of ethics surrounding this book. Assistant chair to the English department and professor of English, Dr. Caleb Corkery has successfully implemented themes surrounding The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks into his classroom.
“I am teaching two sections of ENGL 110 to Millersville Scholar Program students. They are doing great with the book. I had them read some articles on the science of racism: the Tuskegee case, the early anthropology that divided up and ordered the supposed races of humans, etc. Next, I will have them do a full research article.”

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is Millersville University’s One Book One Campus (OBOC) pick for this year.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is Millersville University’s One Book One Campus (OBOC) pick for this year.

Whether in the classroom or living their daily lives, all students can learn from this book. Just how does a book get chosen? Usually the OBOC committee will decide together; however, this year, students are also invited to participate in the selection process for the next book to be chosen for the 2015 school year.

This year’s selections are all environmentally related in conjunction with MU President John Anderson’s focus on sustainability. To find the station where possible OBOC books are, students should walk past the circulation desk of the library and into the area of low shelving on the right, where they can find copies of possible selections for next year. The title’s include:
• Under the Surface: Fracking, Fortunes, and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale By Tom Wilber

• Silent Spring By Rachel Carson

• The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History By Elizabeth Kolbert

• Tom’s River: A Story of Science and Salvation By Dan Fagin

• The End of Country By Seamus McGraw

• Global Weirdness: Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas, and the Weather of The Future By Climate Central

• The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities By Will Allen

• Unbowed: A Memoir By Wangari Maathai

A poster and box are currently stationed on a bookshelf that cannot be missed in this location, allowing students to submit their votes up until Thanksgiving. If you are interested in following the Lacks’ family, visit www.lacksfamily.com or lyceumagency.com.