The Vernon L. Pack lecture and residence program means to strengthen the ties between Otterbein and the community through research and creative work.

Vernon L. Pack Distinguished Lecture & Residence Program

The Vernon L. Pack Distinguished Lecture and Scholar-in-Residence program was established in 2002 through a generous gift from alumnus Vernon L. Pack, a 1950 graduate of the University. A distinguished lecturer visits campus to address important current issues that will allow the Otterbein community to reflect on ethical, spiritual and social issues. In alternate years, an esteemed scholar is invited to campus to reside for up to one academic year in order to provide an educational enrichment experience for Otterbein students.

2020 Vernon L. Pack Distinguished Lecture: Nikole Hannah-Jones and Jonathan Kozol

The Vernon L. Pack Distinguished Lecture Series at Otterbein University is proud to bring to campus Nikole Hannah-Jones and Jonathan Kozol, two powerful and tireless voices that have deepened our understanding of the connections between race, equity, and education.

Sharing a stage for the first time, these social justice champions will offer a unique and compelling discussion on important topics we are facing today at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 30, 2020, in the Fritsche Theatre at Cowan Hall, 30 S. Grove St., Westerville.

Nikole Hannah-Jones covers racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine, and has spent years chronicling the way official policy has created — and maintains — racial segregation in housing and schools. Her deeply personal reports on the black experience in America offer a compelling case for greater equity. Hannah-Jones is the lead writer on The New York Times’ major multimedia initiative, The 1619 Project. Named for the year the first enslaved Africans arrived in America, the project features an ongoing series of essays and art on the relationship between slavery and everything from social infrastructure and segregation, to music and sugar — all by Black American authors, activists, journalists and more.

She has written extensively on the history of racism, school resegregation, and the decades-long failure of the federal government to enforce the landmark 1968 Fair Housing Act.

Hannah-Jones co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting with the goal of increasing the number of reporters and editors of color. For the Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies, she investigated social changes under Raul Castro and the impact of universal healthcare on Cuba’s educational system. She was also selected by the University of Pennsylvania to report on the impact of the Watts Riots for a study marking the 40th anniversary of the Kerner Commission report. Along with The New York Times, her reporting has been featured in ProPublica, The Atlantic Magazine, Huffington Post, Essence Magazine, The Week Magazine, Grist, and Politico Magazine, and on Face the Nation, This American Life, NPR, The Tom Joyner Morning Show, MSNBC, C-SPAN, Democracy Now, and radio stations across the country.

She was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists, and was named to 2019’s The Root 100 as well as Essenece’s Woke 100. Her reporting has also won the National Magazine Award, Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism, Peabody Award, George Polk Award, Deadline Club Awards, Online Journalism Awards, the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service, the Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting, and the Emerson College President’s Award for Civic Leadership.

Jonathan Kozol is an author and educator whose classic works remain relevant as racial tensions that divide society and the glaring inequalities in public education have become the focus of urgent and renewed political attention.

A Rhodes Scholar, former fourth grade teacher, and a passionate advocate for child-centered learning, Kozol is one of the most widely read and highly honored education writers in the nation. He is a critic of the national obsession with standardized exams and the corporate attempt to privatize our public schools.

His first book, Death at an Early Age, a description of his first year as a teacher, received the National Book Award in Science, Philosophy, and Religion. Among his other major works are Rachel and Her Children, a study of homeless mothers and their children, which received the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and Savage Inequalities, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992. His 1995 best-seller, Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation, received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 1996, an honor previously granted to the works of Langston Hughes and Dr. Martin Luther King.

In his New York Times Bestseller, The Shame of the Nation, a description of conditions that he found in nearly 60 public schools, Kozol wrote that inner-city children were more isolated racially than at any time since federal courts began dismantling the landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.

Kozol believes that all our kids have limitless potential, but he does not believe that any school or district ought to load young children with gratuitous anxiety by telling them their value can be measured by a standardized exam.

He continues to visit children in their classrooms and to defend the dignity of hard-working and devoted teachers after more than 50 years as an educator and activist.

Previous Lectures

  • 2002 – Doris Kerns Goodwin, acclaimed historian and Pulitzer Prize in history winner for No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II.
  • 2004 – Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International and host of CNN’s international affairs program Fareed Zakaria GPS.
  • 2005 – Alan Lightman, noted physicist and critically acclaimed author of Einstein’s Dreams.
  • 2008 – Ed Begley, Jr., actor and environmentalist.
  • 2010 – Dee Dee Myers, White House press secretary under President Clinton from 1993-1994, political analyst and commentator, and author of Why Women Should Rule the World. Myers is an expert on the issues facing women in Washington and in leadership positions of all kinds.
  • 2012 – Dr. Steven Pinker, Harvard University professor, best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize finalist. He has been listed on TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in The World” and Foreign Policy magazine’s list of “The World’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals.”
  • 2014 – Sir Salman Rushdie, one of the most celebrated authors of our time. He penned a handful of classic novels, influenced a generation of writers, and received a Queen’s Knighthood for “services to literature.” He stands as both a pop culture icon and one of the most thought-provoking proponents for free speech today. His novels include Midnight’s Children, The Satanic VersesThe Moor’s Last SighThe Ground Beneath Her Feet and The Enchantress of Florence.
  • 2016 – Amy Goodman, award-winning investigative journalist, author, and syndicated columnist. She is the host of Democracy Now!, airing on more than 1400 public television and radio stations worldwide.
  • 2018 – Piper Kerman, bestselling author of “Orange is the New Black” and criminal justice reform activist.
  • 2019 – Winona LaDuke, Native American activist, environmentalist, and former Green Party vice presidential candidate

Distinguished Scholars-in-Residence

  • 2003 – Dr. Valentine Moghadam, a professor born in Iran, who conducts research regarding development, social change, and gender in the Middle East, North Africa, and Afghanistan.
  • 2005- Lois Raimondo, an internationally-known photojournalist and Pulitzer Prize finalist nominee for her work on the New York City Mitchell Lama housing project for New York Newsday.
  • 2007 – Wande Abimbola, President of the International Congress of Orisa Tradition and Culture, and world-renowned expert on Ifa, a West African sacred divinatory and literary system.
  • 2009 – Dr. Richard Alley, an acclaimed geologist who conducts research on environmental issues including abrupt climate changes, glaciers, ice sheet collapse and sea level change.
  • 2011 – Harrell Fletcher, renowned visual and conceptual artist and recipient of the 2005 Alpert Award in Visual Arts.
  • 2013 – Dr. Robert Fefferman, acclaimed mathematician in the field of harmonic analysis and its applications to elliptic partial differential equations and its relationship to probability theory.
  • 2015 – Bonny Norton, Professor and Distinguished University Scholar in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia, Her highly cited book, Identity and Language Learning (2000/2013) has introduced novel conceptions of identity to the field of language education.
  • 2017 – Bryonn Bain, prison reform activist, actor, author, hip hop theater innovator and spoken word poetry champion.
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