Have you ever had smallpox or known anyone this day in age who has? For the majority of people, that answer is no. We owe that partially to the speaker at this year’s Shilling Lecture, epidemiologist, Dr. William H. Foege.
“It was very intentional in selecting a speaker that we felt like represented the importance of lifelong learning,” Cindy Locke said. “Of course, Foege is a global humanitarian which seemed like the perfect choice.”
Each spring, SU hosts an internationally prominent speaker to hold what is called the Shilling Lecture. Some of the past speakers have included former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, 39th President Jimmy Carter, and former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto.
“We always choose and designate speakers who will talk about ethics, public service, public policy or a combination of those,” Locke said.
The Shilling Lecture is based around these three pillars, but there is a lot more thought that goes into choosing a speaker than just matching this criteria.
“When making the selection, first and foremost, we talk about how the students will respond to it,” Locke said. “Is it timely? Is it the right person to bring this message?”
Foege’s resume is extraordinary. In the 1970s Foege participated in a successful campaign to eradicate small pox. This involved evaluating likely routes of disease transmission, travel patterns and familial relationships, and proved, along with his colleagues, that it was more effective than mass vaccination.
He has also played a central role in increased immunization rates in developing countries, worked on projects to eliminate “river blindness” in Africa, became senior medical advisor for the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, and won numerous awards.
“He grew up with a sense of commitment to the world larger than to himself,” Locke said.
Dr. Schrum, Jerry Brody, Jim Hunt, Rick McKelvey and Cindy Locke work together to organize the Shilling Lecture each year. They do take submissions for speakers, but they also make sure to have timely lecture topics.
“We look where we are regarding popular and pressing topics at the time,” Locke said. “Public health is not only of a national focus but an international focus as well.”
Foege was originally brought into the scope of Southwestern when Dr. Schrum met Foege at a conference at Emory while Foege was working there. With the help of an alumni who now works for the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, Southwestern was able to successfully recruit Foege for the lecture.
The Shilling Lecture will take place on March 11, 2010 at 7 p.m., but that day is filled with more than just the lecture. The Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Center for Lifelong Learning will also be dedicated that day at 1 p.m. following the University Chapel Service at 11 a.m.
“I hope students will come to this because it will be like a sneak preview and the first time the public can see it,” Locke said.
The Shilling Lecture is always not only an informative event, but one that is inspirational to students, staff and the public. Southwestern is full of students eager to learn and to make a difference and impact in the world. Locke believes that Foege will meet the expectations of not only the staff, but the students as well.
“I hope the students will have an opportunity to hear someone that has lived a life of focus and be inspired by Dr. Foege.” Locke said. “I think he epitomizes the core of Southwestern’s purpose.”