Stogner connects genius and mental illness in Smart Towns’ presentation

By Jordan Deane
Staff Writer

Dr. Brian Stogner, president of Rochester College, presented a talk on the connection between genius and mental illness at the Rochester Hills Public Library on March 19.

Stogner’s presentation, entitled “A Divine Madness: Creativity, Genius and Mental Illness,” is part of the library’s Smart Towns program, which focuses on providing theme-based educational content for the community.

Stogner, who also is a clinical psychologist, made his intentions clear. “This is not a series about mental illness. This is a series about genius. We are talking about the overlap, or the touch points, or intersections between mental illness and genius; particularly, creative genius,” he said.

Stogner referenced a general psychiatry study that found a significant portion of the human population suffered from some type of mental illness:

  • 46 percent had some type of mental disorder

  • 28 percent suffered anxiety

  • 26 percent experienced mood disorders

  • 4 percent had bi-polar disorder

  • 1 percent experienced schizophrenia.

Stogner used examples of historical figures such as Isaac Newton, Virginia Woolf, the James Boys, John Nash and Temple Grandin to connect his observations throughout the hour-and-a-half discussion.

Stogner focused on John Nash, a famous mathematician who had schizophrenia, which affects how a person thinks and feels and influences their overall behaviors. Nash was able to overcome his mental illness, and he won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1994. Stogner presented a relevant quote from Nash, where he said, “I wouldn’t have had such good scientific ideas if I had thought more normally.”

The overall message relayed by Stogner was that although mental illness can be a serious road block, many people have accomplished remarkable feats that have changed the course of the world.

The audience of about 80 community residents, RC students and employees were engaged throughout Stogner’s presentation. Peggy Lewis, a local Rochester Hills resident, said, “I thought it was great. It makes you think. It gave me a reading list.” And her friend Donna Marcella jokingly said about the presentation: “I am normal.”

The Smart Towns look at “The Enigma of Genius” continues when Dr. Mark Love, dean of RC’s School of Theology and Ministry, presents “Genius of the Early Christian Mission” on  Tuesday, April 2, at 7 p.m. in RC’s Auditorium. His presentation will focus on the translation of the words of Jesus as an example of the bold cultural instincts of early Christianity.

For more information about upcoming Smart Towns presentations at RC, click here.