With Recent Retirement of Esther Gray, Team Will Guide University Lectures
Since its founding in 2001 through a generous gift from Syracuse University alumnus and trustee Robert B. Menschel ’51, the University Lectures has hosted many of the world’s foremost artisans, authors, educators, designers, journalists, legal scholars, musicians, scientists, social activists and statesmen over an astounding run of 119 events (and counting).
As the current 15th season unfolded, work began on a behind-the-scenes transition to prepare for the departure of longtime series coordinator Esther Gray, who retired Dec. 31 after nearly 40 years at the University. For a good portion of her SU career, Gray had been intimately involved with the University Lectures, working closely from that first season with the series’ architect—Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Michael Flusche—and later with Senior Vice President for Human Capital Development Kal Alston and most recently with Interim Vice Chancellor and Provost Liz Liddy.
Gray is perhaps best described as the University Lectures’ godmother, nurturing its growth while managing myriad details: from coordinating the speaker selection process to overseeing the budget, managing intricate event logistics, arranging speaker hosts, scheduling community appearances for speakers, scheduling pre-event dinners and countless other tasks.
To ensure the best-possible continuity in the series’ leadership, Liddy several months ago appointed a cross-campus University Lectures Advisory Team co-chaired by Nicole Hill, professor and chair of the Department of Counseling and Human Services in the School of Education, and Barbara Kay Stripling, assistant professor of practice and senior associate dean in the School of Information Studies.
Other members are:
- Eric Evangelista, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences
- Matthew Fee, director of Summer College at University College
- Suzanne Guiod, editor-in-chief of Syracuse University Press
- Tara Helfman, associate professor of law in the College of Law
- Brian Lonsway, associate professor in the School of Architecture
- Tom Lumpkin, the Chris Witting Chair in Entrepreneurship in the Whitman School
- Deb Monahan, professor of social work and associate dean of research in the Falk College
- Chuck Morris, professor and chair of the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts
- Grant Reeher, professor of political science and director of the Alan K. Campbell Public Affairs Institute in the Maxwell School
- Peter Saulson, the Martin A. Pomerantz ’37 Professor of Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences
- Robert Thompson, Trustee Professor and the director of the Bleier Center for Television & Popular Culture in the Newhouse School
“I’ve been very impressed with the enthusiasm of the advisory team and the high caliber of discussion in the planning meetings,” Liddy says. “As we move forward, I have great confidence in the group’s abilities to offer guidance to the University Lectures.”
The advisory team met regularly throughout the fall semester to discuss details of the four upcoming spring events—social scientist Dacher Keltner (March 8); Major League Soccer commissioner and Soccer United Marketing CEO Don Garber (March 22); author Mary Roach (March 29); and creators/executive producers of the “Serial” podcast Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder (April 12)—and select speakers for the 2016-17 season; an announcement will be made in late spring.
Moving forward, the advisory team will collaborate on planning and logistics with Ellen King, executive director of SU’s Office of Special Events.
Gray departs with many fond memories. “Working with the University Lectures for the past 15 years has been a joy and a privilege, but the real reward has been to introduce the world to the amazing faculty and students we have at SU,” she says. “At the same time, I’ve been blessed with 15 years of memorable moments and friendships with so many extraordinary people who just happened to be our speakers.”
And she echoes Liddy’s confidence in the advisory team. “As much as it saddens me to walk away from the lectures, I have great faith and trust in the members of the advisory team to continue and improve the tradition,” Gray says. “I feel like I am passing the baton to exactly the right people. Now I get to sit in the audience and enjoy!”
Those interested in offering feedback or suggestions for the University Lectures are invited to write to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the series, visit the UL website and Facebook page.