Convocation series begins

Ceilidh Mar

The opening speech of Lawrence’s annual convocation series started Thursday with President Richard Warch’s 25th matriculation convocation address. This popular series is spread throughout the year and presents on a broad variety of topics. Well-known speakers, chosen for their insight on topics thought to be pertinent to today’s world, ranging from poets to scientists, are invited to address the campus.

In the recent past, these speakers have included such recognized people as Maya Angelou, Lech Walesa, Wynton Marsalis, and Frank McCourt.

The convocation series was adapted in 1927 from the previous chapel services, which the entire student body was required to attend. Now, the less rigidly structured speeches are used as an educational open classroom for the college and surrounding communities.

This year’s series differs from the traditional convocation format with an evening address by playwright and radio commentator David Sedaris on Oct. 14 at 7:10 p.m. The evening convocation is a departure from the usual morning convocations.

Fans of National Public Radio will recognize Sedaris for his humorous stories on the show Morning Edition. He has also received the Thurber Prize for American Humor and has been named Time Magazine’s Humorist of the Year for 2001. He is also known for his several books and plays.

In January, leading cognitive scientist Steven Pinker will present on his most recent book, The Blank Slate. The speech will explore human nature and mental development. His often controversial ideas have produced several best-selling works on psychology and human mental development. Pinker is currently a professor of psychology at the Center for Cognitive Neurosciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Next in the series is writer Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy (SARK). This best-selling author has been featured in the PBS series “Women of Wisdom and Power.” She has also written 11 books and often appears as a guest speaker on NPR.

The final presentation in the series will be the honors convocation, which highlights academic and extra-curricular achievements of students. Environmental historian and Rhodes Scholar William Cronon will present the address “The Portage: History and Memory in the Making.” Cronon earned the 1992 Bancroft Prize for his book “Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West.” He was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in history for the same work.

The convocation series is typically held on Tuesday or Thursday mornings at 11:10 a.m. There is no charge for attendance, and the convocations are open to the public.

Offices and services around campus are typically closed for the convocations, and registration for classes will be closed Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.