Notable Speakers: The New Norm?
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 8, 2013 00:03
Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Jimmy Carter and Primatologist Jane Goodall. Three high profile, world famous influential individuals all of whom will be speaking at Lafayette in April—all within a two-week span. Is this sudden surge of highly acclaimed speakers a coincidence or an emerging trend?
“It seems like it came out of nowhere,” Christine Vrakas ‘13 said about the recent surge in high profile speakers. “There were not as many big names my freshman and sophomore year.”
While many students agree the recent run of prominent speakers appears abrupt, Vice President for Communications Robert Massa explained it is not the speakers who are unusual, but the timing.
“Having all three in a two-week time span is quite unusual,” Massa said.
Looking beyond a student’s four-year experience, Lafayette’s supposed surge in highly acclaimed speakers may not be the new norm, but a continuation of an already existing norm.
Since 1877, Lafayette has hosted notable speakers including Susan B. Anthony, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Robert Frost, Meryl Streep, Neil Armstrong, and Bill Cosby.
If prominent speakers are not new, then the process by which Lafayette attains these speakers may be what has made the difference in recent years.
“The process of booking speakers varies,” said Executive Assistant to the President James Krivoski, who heads up notable speakers programming. He explained some speakers such as Mikhail Gorbachev, Tony Blair, and Jane Goodall are booked through professional agencies. Other speakers, such as Vice President Joseph Biden and Jimmy Carter, are booked through alumni ties.
“Some of this success is the result of good fortune and important help from members of our devoted alumni,” Krivoski said. “But it is also the result of a concerted effort on the part of the College to be viewed as a forum where such important individuals visit on a regular basis.”
Countless colleges and universities nationwide are competing to book highly acclaimed speakers to boost their credibility and merit. With such high demand, securing these speakers doesn’t come cheap.
The college uses a variety of monetary outlets to fund Lafayette’s speakers throughout the year.
“Some speaker events are covered on an annual basis by designated endowment funds for this purpose and sometimes speakers are funded through special, one-time gifts from our generous alumni,” Krivoski said. “It is not uncommon for multiple academic and administrative departments to work together to provide funding for speakers.”
High-end speakers are an investment for Lafayette. They may be pricy, but they appear to have a positive return.
As internationally renowned speakers continue to visit campus, Lafayette’s national reputation grows. Within the last month, Lafayette has been featured by media outlets across the nation including the San Francisco Chronicle, 8 News NOW Las Vegas, 6ABC Action News, WHIO-TV Ohio, WPVI-TV Philadelphia, Forbes, and Lehigh Valley’s The Morning Call.
Massa credited notable speakers for improving Lafayette’s national reputation.
“Their willingness to come to Easton to speak with our students and faculty shows that Lafayette is indeed a place that matters,” he said.
The recent surge in highly acclaimed speakers has also boosted school pride on campus.
“Gorbachev was a big deal. He put Lafayette on the map,” Ryan McVeigh ‘13 said. “These speakers show that Lafayette is a prestigious institution.”
Vrakas agreed that students are proud to associate with a school that brings in prominent speakers.
“Students seem to have a ‘yeah, I go there’ mentality when Lafayette brings in big name speakers,” Vrakas said. “This is something that they want to share with their friends on Facebook.”
While acknowledging the college’s proactive effort to bring highly acclaimed speakers to campus, Krivoski said that part of the process is luck.
So will Lafayette continue its trend in the years ahead?
“Our goal is to be as aggressive as possible,” Krivoski said. “I hope we can continue with our successes in this area. We’ll do our best.”