By Stephanie Smith
Eastern’s Chautauqua lecture series has served as a showcase for a variety of speakers, singers and artists for more than 10 years. Sometimes the guests travel hundreds of miles to give their lectures, but some only have to walk across campus.Thursday evening’s lecture in the Ferrell Auditorium was delivered by one of Eastern’s very own: Bruce MacLaren, the founder and former director of the lecture series.
Before giving his lecture, aptly titled “Why Chautauqua?”, MacLaren listened to his students, peers, successor Minh Nguyen and Eastern President Doug Whitlock sing his praises and throw in a few friendly jabs.
“It’s well known that Bruce loves to talk,” Nguyen said. “But what makes him so endearing and so beloved to many of us is that he loves the people he is talking with even more.”
“What Bruce has brought here is something that has greatly enriched the education of EKU students,” he said.
Provost Janna Vice also announced that a science award would be given each academic year in MacLaren’s honor and placed in the Crabbe Library. MacLaren was then awarded with a plaque and Chautauqua shirt.
“I thought I was going to give a lecture tonight,” MacLaren said with a laugh, adding that he has had a wonderful time at Eastern, mostly because he “didn’t have to wear a tie.”
MacLaren read T.S. Eliot’s “The Howl” in its entirety to the filled auditorium before playing Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” to begin his talk. He said he planned to answer the nine questions posed in the song to share why the Chautauqua lecture series should continue.
MacLaren answered those questions with examples of Chautauqua lectures that stuck with him throughout the years. The one that stood out to him the most was Richard Rodriguez’s lecture, “Compassion and the Color Brown,” in which Rodriguez discussed the language used to divide people into ethnic groups.
MacLaren said he was so compelled by Rodriguez’s lecture that he called Human Resources and told them he didn’t want to be listed as white anymore, but brown. When they told him that he had the option of “other,” he took it.
Another lecture MacLaren recalled was that of Daniel Ellsberg, who was made famous after he revealed classified documents, later known as the Pentagon Papers, which disclosed years of secrets and U.S. wrongdoing in Vietnam. Ellsberg required police protection, MacLaren said.
MacLaren ended his lecture with a musical piece by a more recent Chautauqua visitor, The American Spiritual Ensemble, which he said would more than likely make him cry with its sheer beauty.
“It’s been a delightful 10 years, a delightful 41 years,” MacLaren said before inviting the audience to a round of drinks at The Paddy Wagon.
The next Chautauqua lecture will feature Peter Singer, noted author and bioethicist, who will speak on “Ethics and Animals: Extending Ethics beyond Our Own Species” at 7:30 on Sept. 9 in the Ferrell Auditorium.