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AID Informs One Lecture At A Time

Heights Editor

Published: Monday, December 3, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

“If you had the chance to give the last lecture of your life, what wisdom would you impart upon your students?” This is the question that has been tackled by several professors over the past four years, as part of the Last Lecture series sponsored by the Boston College chapter of the Americans for Informed Democracy (AID), a nonpartisan political organization. This year’s lecture will be held tomorrow afternoon.

The series began in response to a popular lecture given by Randy Pausch on Sept. 18, 2007. Pausch, a professor of computer science, human-computer interaction, and design at Carnegie Mellon University, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the time and was informed a month before the lecture that it was terminal. His lecture was titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” and gained so much recognition that it eventually developed into The Last Lecture, a New York Times best-selling book coauthored by Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow of The Wall Street Journal.

Colleges and universities across the nation began to host similar lectures, in which professors were tasked with expressing any life lessons, knowledge, advice, or general beliefs as if they were departing words, adding immense value to the concept. The first “Last Lecture” at BC was given by Rev. Michael Himes, on Nov. 18, 2008, and since then the biannual lecture series has served as an outlet for several other well-known professors to share their wisdom. Some of the past speakers include Mary Joe Hughes, professor and assistant director of the Arts and Sciences Honors Program, and David McMenamin, director of the PULSE Program for Service Learning. The lectures are available to view online at BC’s website, allowing their words to reach everyone on campus as well as future generations of students to come.

On Tuesday, Amy LaCombe will speak to a crowd of students and faculty in the Murray Function Room as a continuation of this lecture series as a distinguished BC professor. LaCombe is a senior lecturer in the Carroll School of Management (CSOM), and will actually be the first CSOM professor to be featured in the Last Lecture series.

“People really want to hear what she has to say,” said Colin Akerly, vice president of AID and CSOM ’13. LaCombe was one of Akerly’s professors during the first semester of his freshman year, and has been a vocal supporter since the beginning and is looking forward to hearing what she has to share with the rest of the BC community.

When describing the qualities that AID looks for in a professor to give a Last Lecture, Akerly used one word: beloved.

“We want a professor who has taught for years here, who has an audience,” he said. He described the extensive conversation and debates that members of AID have to choose the perfect individual—someone who is well known, has sparked inspiration in his or her students, and who would have a unique voice when addressing an eager audience. AID strives to find professors across all departments, and prides themselves on continuing this tradition at the end of every semester.

“We always do it right before finals—we think it puts people in the right mindset,” Akerly noted. Before the ensuing weeks of papers, exams, and presentations, students could certainly use some encouragement and “peace of mind,” he said.

AID has worked diligently through fliers to advertise for the event, but the student leaders hope that the series will gain more prominence in the future. “We’re wanting it to be like a brand,” Akerly said. “I don’t think it’s at that point yet, because some seniors still don’t know about it, but it’s still a great event.”

While the Last Lecture is certainly one of AID’s most anticipated events, the organization also facilitates several lectures, presentations, and panels to foster a well-informed student population.

“Our goal is to start and promote discussions on campus, whether it be about politics or current events, or more philosophical in nature, like Tuesday’s lecture,” Akerly explained. “We also have international people, so we’re not just Americans for informed democracy, we’re humans for informed democracy.”

AID has hosted several events this fall, centered on the political elections. “Earlier this fall, back in September, we did a panel evaluating Obama’s first term,” Akerly said. The panel featured professors who represented different ideologies, and attempted to showcase viewpoints and provide information that students may not be able to derive from the media.

In November, AID organized a day trip visit of 36 people to the UN in New York, where students had time to both explore the city and visit the UN building itself, including where the security council meets. AID reached out to members of the political science department, the International Studies program, as well as other political groups on campus, which culminated in a successful and well-attended trip.

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