University Speaker Series deemed a success
By Kayla Graham, Reporter
Published: Sunday, April 3, 2011
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“I think we had a good season, with a variety of thought-provoking and entertaining speakers,” said Linda Crossett, interim director of the Office of Continuing Education. Crossett, who is retiring this June, arranged the bookings and contracts for the series.
“This year’s series was diverse,” said Paula Meyer, a member of the series committee, “offering our patrons a chance to interact with notable figures with entertaining or inspirational stories and political insights.”
The University Speaker Series, which started in 1980, brings visitors to campus of both national and international importance. Students and community members are invited to attend for free and listen to the guests speak about their area of expertise.
This season’s roster was comprised of several different personalities, speaking about a variety of topics. The season began in October with Byron Pitts, a CBS News and “60 Minutes” correspondent, who spoke about his work and how he conquered stuttering and illiteracy.
Crossett named Pitts as her favorite speaker of the season.
“He is a very warm and caring individual, and had an inspiring story to tell,” Crossett said. “He related well to students and directed his message to them, although his message was good for all the audience to hear.”
Mark Edwards, former committee chair for the series, also liked Pitts.
“He was an unqualified inspiration to the audience talking candidly about his struggle to overcome his physical, emotional, and learning challenges,” Edwards said. “He was the real deal. It was obvious that he loved reaching out to people in need, professionally and personally.”
November’s guest was Eugene Robinson, a Washington Post columnist, who offered analysis of the 2010 midterm elections. Edwards said that Robinson’s honest criticism of the political scene was accented with wit and a sense of humor that made it even more interesting.
Meghan McCain, an author, blogger and daughter of Senator John McCain, spoke in February about her beliefs that the Republican Party should be more open and accepting. Of all the speeches this season, hers may be the most memorable to some attendees. Hypersensitive to the possibility of McCain being heckled while onstage, a repetitive, involuntary noise being made by the audience member was mistaken for a sound of derision. Unable to see the audience member, McCain assumed that she was being harassed and reacted sharply.
Edwards, who was present at the event, said that he, too, also incorrectly identified the sound, and was unable to inform McCain in time of the situation. When he did, he said, McCain was visibly upset and was adamant about finding the audience member and his family in order to apologize.
“It was a perfect storm for misinterpreting the sounds coming from the audience,” Edwards said. “However if you were in the audience you may have a whole different perception of what occurred.”
The last speaker of the season was Richard Roeper, film critic and columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. Roeper spoke Monday about Hollywood urban legends and his experiences at the Oscars.
“Richard Roeper was purely entertaining when talking about entertainment and Hollywood urban legends,” Edwards said. “A good time was had by all in what was probably the lightest fare of this season.”
Crossett and Edwards are both retiring this summer. David DelColletti, associate professor of theatre, is the new committee chair.
Plans for the 2011-2012 season are still being finalized, but will be announced this summer.
“This was my last series after 12 years,” Edwards said. “I will miss the series and I hope it carries on for another thirty years or more.”