By Roger Clow

To mention just a few . . .

The 39th president of the United States, the 47th vice president, the 65th attorney general.

A Freedom Rider.

The 55th president of Mexico, the 24th president of Liberia. The only president
of the Soviet Union.

A sitting prime minister. A former
prime minister.

Brexit’s architect.

Tom Hanks.

It’s way too long even for very fine print, the list of leaders and luminaries who shared their experiences and insights with students, faculty, staff, and friends during the Live Connected, Lead Change Campaign. The remarkable people are from so many sectors of learning and life: scientists, artists, statesmen, economists, historians, business leaders, novelists, composers, biographers, and many more.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia, was the most recent guest for the Class of 1961 International Speaker Series, endowed by class members to mark their 50th reunion.

Clockwise from top left: Mikhail Gorbachev, Vice President Joe Biden, President Jimmy Carter, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia.

President Jimmy Carter delivered the inaugural Pastor Lecture in International Affairs, endowed by Robert Pastor ’69 and Margaret Pastor. Within weeks of his talk, in spring 2013, Jane Goodall and Tony Blair also spoke on campus. For global impact, this trifecta rivaled the previous year’s appearances by Vice President Joe Biden and Mikhail Gorbachev.

President Alison Byerly founded the Lafayette Symposium to explore conceptions of justice, freedom, individual rights, and communal responsibilities. Inaugural events focused on a hot topic, free speech on U.S. campuses. Later, Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico, and Nigel Farage, major force in the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, debated another one, globalism vs. nationalism.

Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures, about the African American women mathematicians who helped win the space race, was the common reading for incoming students last year. Her visit was sponsored by the John ’39 and Muriel Landis Lecture Series and Judith A. Resnik Lecture Series, two of many long-standing endowed series.

Diane Nash and Nicholas Katzenbach risked their lives to advance civil rights, she coordinating the Freedom Rides, he escorting James Hood and Vivian Malone to enroll at the University of Alabama, to cite just two examples. Katzenbach spoke at the rededication of Kirby Hall of Civil Rights, Nash during Black History Month.

“We were doing this for generations yet unborn,” Nash told students who were the same age she had been when she braved violence to challenge discrimination. “Even though we had not yet met you, we loved you.”

Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller sent the 179th graduating class into the world “with the words of the great Bob Marley: ‘One love, one heart.’”

And it was love all the way with Tom Hanks.

He impressed students of Professor Don Miller, who has collaborated with Hanks on numerous projects. In packed Kamine Gym, Hanks snapped a selfie as students mugged behind him, then spoke of war, acting, and finding truth in Hollywood’s
smoke and mirrors.

“In case you’re wondering,” Byerly said later, removing all doubt, “he is every bit as nice as he seems.”