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"Waiting on a Train" Author to Give Honors Anniversary Address March 25

March 4, 2010

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MACOMB, IL – James McCommons, a professor, journalist and author of "Waiting on a Train: The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service" (Chelsea Green Publishing, November 2009), will present the Centennial Honors College 10th anniversary address – "Passenger Rail Service in America" – at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 25 in the Western Illinois University Leslie F. Malpass Library Garden Lounge.

McCommons, an associate professor of English and campus newspaper advisor at Northern Michigan University, spent his sabbatical year (2008) riding 26,000 miles by rail, interviewing rail experts along the way. He will address the future role of passenger rail travel in the United States, a future in which Amtrak could play a major role in community and regional development, including that of rural America. He contends passenger rail travel could have a profound effect on regional wealth and poverty by increasing opportunity by providing rapid and regular transportation.

Library Journal describes "Waiting on a Train" as "equal parts travel, narrative, personal memoir, and investigative journalism." According to author and critic Howard Kuntsler, McCommons' book is "one small step toward the giant leap of consciousness necessary to repair our battered country."

As a journalist, McCommons has contributed to the New York Times, Audubon Magazine, Backpacker, Organic Gardening, Wildlife Conservation, Next American City and the History Channel, among others. In addition to his frequent freelance work, he has also worked in corporate communications and taught at Syracuse University, Muhlenberg College and DeSales University.

He has earned degrees ranging from photography to journalism and environmental science from the Art Institute of Boston, University of Pittsburgh, Syracuse University, and the College of Environmental Science and Forestry-State University of New York (SUNY).

A question-and-answer session, book sale, signing and reception will follow his talk, which is open free to the public.

McCommons will also visit English and journalism classes on Friday (March 26).

His visit to Western is sponsored by the Centennial Honors College, the University Theme Committee, Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, English and journalism department and University Libraries.

For more information, contact the Honors College, phone (309) 298-2228, or e-mail

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