Merriam-Webster Publisher, Editors to Speak at Dinner with Friends Library Fundraiser

The publisher and editors of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary will be guest speakers at the Friends of the UMass Amherst Libraries 13th annual Dinner with Friends on Saturday, March 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the Du Bois Library. 

The event celebrates the 150th anniversary of a landmark in the history of American dictionary making, the 1864 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, commonly referred to as the Unabridged. Dinner guests will learn about this revolution in dictionary making and how it reflected the world in which it was created, as well as the lessons it has for today’s editors at Merriam-Webster as they once again take on the task of revising the Unabridged.

The Libraries’ signature fundraising event will also feature a champagne reception with the Eric Bascom Jazz Trio, a silent auction, the White House-performing UMass Amherst a cappella group The Doo Wop Shop, and a gourmet meal.

Proceeds from the Dinner with Friends will go toward the Innovation Fund for underwriting the production of a new 3D Printing Center. The Libraries have partnered with Makerbot, manufacturer of 3D printers, to build an Innovation Center in the Digital Media Lab on Floor 3 of the Du Bois Library, making 3D printing widely available to students, faculty and researchers across all disciplines. The center will be the first of its kind in New England and the first at a university library. 

The featured speakers will be John M. Morse and alumni Peter A. Sokolowski and Emily Brewster.

Morse, president and publisher of Merriam-Webster Incorporated, joined Merriam-Webster in 1980. As manager of editorial operations and planning, beginning in 1983, and as executive editor in 1991, he was responsible for all product-development operations. He became publisher in 1996 and was named president and publisher in 1997. He continues to be actively involved in the company’s editorial process, including the creation of Merriam-Webster's Advanced Learner's English Dictionary in 2008, a dictionary for people learning English as a second or foreign language, and with periodic updates of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, including the new 2014 printing. He is a strong advocate for cross-media development and has written and spoken widely about the evolution of reference books in print and online formats. Morse is a graduate of Haverford College and holds a master of arts degree in English language and literature from the University of Chicago.

Sokolowski joined Merriam-Webster in 1994 as the first French-language editor in the company’s history. He has since defined and edited entries for many of the company’s dictionaries including the Collegiate Dictionary and the Advanced Learner’s English Dictionary. He was named editor-at-large in 2007. He blogs at Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged website, appears in the Ask the Editor videos at, and was named one of Time magazine’s 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2013 (@PeterSokolowski). Active as a lecturer in the world of English as a Second Language and Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Sokolowski has led workshops on American English for the U.S. State Department worldwide, and serves as pronouncer for spelling bees around the world. Sokolowski attended the University of Paris and taught French at UMass Amherst while earning his M.A. in French literature. He also maintains a busy freelance career as a musician and presents jazz programming for Western New England’s National Public Radio affiliate.

Brewster is an associate editor at Merriam-Webster. She is currently defining new words for Merriam-Webster Unabridged, where she has also contributed to hundreds of usage paragraphs dealing with sticky grammar and style issues. Brewster has defined for various other dictionaries the company produces, among them the Collegiateand Advanced Learner’s English Dictionaries. In addition to defining work, she writes and edits for the “Word of the Day,” blogs at, and appears in the Ask the Editor video series at Brewster is a regular guest on WRSI, where she is the resident wordster on Monte Belmonte’s weekly Word Nerd segment. A UMass Amherst graduate with a degree in linguistics and philosophy, she is co-owner of The Rendezvous, a pub in Turners Falls.

Tickets are $150 per person and $275 for two (of which $100 and $175, respectively, is tax-deductible). 

Individual and corporate sponsorships are available starting at $250.

For more information, contact Carol Connare, 545-0995 or,  or visit the Dinner with Friends website: To make reservations, email