Sunday, February 12 at 4:00 pm

Sunday Speaker Series

Berkshire residents Joyce Butler and Bill Tynan will discuss their involvement with Project Nim, the controversial Columbia University study of the capacity of chimpanzees to communicate with sign language.  Both were Columbia University psychology department research assistants in the 1970s directly involved with the effort to teach sign language to a young, male chimp nicknamed NIM, short for Nim Chimpsky, a pun on the name of famed linguist Noam Chomsky.  Butler and Tynan lived and worked with the chimp on the Delafield Estate in Riverdale, New York, where the research project was conducted.

Elizabeth Hess, author of Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human (2008), also will join the discussion and have books available for purchase and signing.  Her book inspired last year’s documentary film, Project Nim, for which both Butler and Tynan were interviewed.  The documentary has been nominated for several British film awards, and will be released on DVD on February 7.

Dr. Butler, currently Director of Pupil Personnel Services for the South Hadley Public Schools, was a longtime Special Education Teacher and Elementary School Principal in the Berkshire Hills Regional School District.  She received her doctorate in Special Education Administration from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Special Education from Columbia University Teacher’s College.

Mr. Tynan has a Master’s Degree from Columbia University and was involved with Project Nim from 1974 until its dissolution in 1978. He then pursued a career in publishing, marketing and business management, and currently is Operations Coordinator of the Berkshire Co-op Market in Great Barrington.

This program is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be provided.

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