Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Skip navigation

Past Events: The Big Read

Event Partners

Don’t seek God in temples. He is close to you. He is within you. Only you should surrender to Him and you will rise above happiness and unhappiness. 
Leo Tolstoy


During our month-long celebration of Tolstoy and Russian culture, the University Library-sponsored book discussions, a festival of Russian cinema, a panel discussion, and workshops and lectures. The Library formed partnerships with eleven other organizations from Chicago to Bermuda to bring the power of Tolstoy’s novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich to diverse audiences. During January and early February, high school and college students, Sunday school classes, military officers, recent Russian immigrants, and inmates at the Virginia Beach jail all read together Tolstoy’s tale of life’s most inescapable problem.

Here are some final statistics from our Big Read:

  • Copies of The Death of Ivan Ilyich & NEA Reader’s Guide distributed: 1,250
  • Number of partners: 11
  • Number of Book Discussions: 28
  •    Adult attendance at book discussions: 156
  •    Youth attendance at book discussions: 693
  • Number of Special Events: 7
  • Attendance at special events: 493

The Library would like to thank everyone who participated in this rewarding effort and helped to make our Big Read a success.

The changes in our life must come from the impossibility to live otherwise than according to the demands of our conscience, not from our mental resolution to try a new form of life.

Leo Tolstoy

Capstone Lecture by Andrew Kaufman

The Library’s Big Read concluded on February 10, 2009 with a lecture by renowned Tolstoy scholar and author Andrew Kaufman. He lectured on the impact Tolstoy’s books have made on readers from Mahatma Gandhi to Condoleezza Rice.

Big Read Events Calendar

In addition to coordinating 28 book discussions, the Library also organized seven special events, including four workshops with visiting scholar Andrew Kaufman:

Friday, January 9

Big Read Kickoff

Our festival of Tolstoy and Russian culture kicked off in the Library with remarks from Dean Sara Baron, Dr. Carlos Campo, librarian Harold Henkel, and a dramatic reading by the Library’s systems manager and resident thespian, Mark Zillges. University News Link

Tuesday, January 13

Library Book Club Discussion

On January 13, the Library Book Club hosted its best-attended meeting to date with Russian refreshments and lively discussion.

Friday, January 16

War, Love, Repentance : A Festival of Russian Cinema

Dr. Dennis Bounds hosted Prisoner of the Mountains (1996)-Sergei Bodrov’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s short story, “A Prisoner of the Caucasus.”

Friday, January 23

War, Love, Repentance : A Festival of Russian Cinema

Prof. Andrew Quick hosted host Anna Karenina (1967)-Alexander Zarkhi’s classic film of Tolstoy’s masterpiece.

Tuesday, January 27

Faculty Lunch Symposium: Ivan Ilyich's Problems

A panel of Regent University faculty discussed The Death of Ivan Ilyich from the perspective of their disciplines: Dr. Rosemarie Hughes, School of Psychology and Counseling; Dr. Michael Palmer, School of Divinity; Prof. David Wagner, School of Law. Also joining the panel was Dr. Maria Grise, Department of Russian, Old Dominion University and Fr. James Pavlow, pastor of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Virginia Beach.

Friday, January 30

War, Love, Repentance : A Festival of Russian Cinema

Prof. Andrew Quicke hosted Ostrov (2006)-Pavel Lungin’s powerful film of guilt, repentance, and holiness set in a Russian monastery in the far north.

Monday, February 2

Tolstoy Workshop with Dr. Andrew Kaufman

Dr. Andrew Kuafman led a workshop on Tolstoy and The Death of Ivan Ilyich for students in the Global Studies and Foreign Languages Academy at Tallwood High School.

Monday, February 2

Tolstoy Workshop with Dr. Andrew Kaufman

Dr. Andrew Kuafman led a workshop on Tolstoy and The Death of Ivan Ilyich for students in the International Baccalaureate Program at Oscar Smith High School. 

Thursday, February 5

Book Discussion in Russian

The Library hosted a discussion in Russian of The Death of Ivan Ilyich for native Russian speakers, speakers of Russian as a second language, and students of Russian.

Tuesday, February 10

Tolstoy Workshop with Dr. Andrew Kaufman

Dr. Andrew Kuafman led a workshop on Tolstoy and The Death of Ivan Ilyich for students in the International Baccalaureate Program at Princess Anne High School.

Tuesday, February 10

 A Taste of Russia

Chef Dan Murphy served two classics of the Russian kitchen, Ukrainian Borsch and Salmon Kulebyaka, at the Regent Ordinary

Tuesday, February 10

Tolstoy Workshop with Dr. Andrew Kaufman

Dr. Andrew Kuafman led a workshop on Tolstoy and The Death of Ivan Ilyich (The Big Read Behind Bars) for inmates in the Chaplain Steven Christenson’s Life Empowerment Program at the Virginia Beach Correctional Center. 

Tuesday, February 10

Finale Event & Reception: Give War and Peace a Chance: How Tolstoy Can Change Your Life

Dr. Andrew Kaufman discussed how Tolstoy’s works confront the essential questions of life: What does it mean to lead a good life? What is necessary for true happiness? Is suffering beneficial? How does one truly live by the teachings in the Gospels? Awards were presented to the essay and video contests, and Dr. Robertson shared some reflections on how reading literature is a cornerstone of good writing. A reception followed in the Robertson Hall Lobby. University News Link

Essay Contest

As part of our Big Read celebrationthe Library sponsored an essay contest based on the following suggested topic from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Teacher’s Guide to The Death of Ivan Ilyich: 

Several times over the course of the novella, we find statements very much like this one: "So that on the whole Ivan Ilyich’s life proceeded as he felt it should—pleasantly and properly." One’s first, instinctive reaction to such comments might be, "Well, what’s wrong with that?" What, according to Tolstoy, is wrong with that?

There were two divisions in the contest: one for writers under age 19, and one for over age 18. Essays were restricted to no more than 500 words and were judged on adherence to the topic, creativity, and quality of writing.  We received twelve entries in the Under 19 division and nine entries in the Over 18 division. All essays were judged blind by a panel of university and high school faculty:

  • Georgianne Bordner, Regent University Library
  • Dr. Carrie White, Department English, Regent School of Undergraduate Studies
  • Billy Newman, English department, Norview High School  

Under 19 Winners:

  • First Prize ($150):  Alex Gladu, 10th grader at Tallwood High School
  • Second Prize ($50):  Andrew Core, 11th grader at Oscar Smith High School
  • Third Prize ($25):  Alex Anduze, 10th grader at Tallwood High School

Over 18 Winners:

  • First Place ($150):  Sarah Dolan, public relations coordinator, Regent journalism alumna (2008)
  • Second Place ($50):  Deborah Mangum, M.A. Community Counseling student, School of Psychology and Counseling
  • Third Place ($25):  Johnny Weixler, Psychology & Organizational Leadership, School of Undergraduate Studies

The Library thanks all participants and the judging panelists for making the essay contest a success.

The one thing necessary in life 
as in art is to tell the truth. 

Leo Tolstoy

Video Contest

A man is like a fraction whose numerator is what he is and whose denominator is what he thinks of himself. The larger the denominator, the smaller the fraction.

Leo Tolstoy

Along with our essay contest, the Library also sponsored a short video contest. As with the essay contest, there were separate divisions for filmmakers Under 19 and Over 18. Entries were to be of a scene from The Death of Ivan Ilyich and could be acted or animated. The judging criteria were adherence to the text, creativity, and production, and sound quality.

Perhaps it should have come as no surprise that filmmakers would have found the challenge of making a convincing short video of Tolstoy’s story daunting. One team of Regent filmmakers, however, did take up the challenge and produced a first-rate adaptation of the final scene from the novella.

Over 18 Winners: