Last Lecture nominations now open

GVL / Archive
Professor Darren Walhof speaks during the Last Lecture 2012

GVL / Archive Professor Darren Walhof speaks during the Last Lecture 2012

Computer science professor Randy Pausch had just found out his pancreatic cancer was terminal when he gave a lecture called “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” to his students at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania in 2007.

The next year, he published a book called “The Last Lecture,” which sparked a series in schools across the nation, including Grand Valley State University.

Scott St. Louis, Student Senate vice president for the Educational Affairs Committee, said nominations for this year’s Last Lecture opened on Sept. 25 and will be accepted through Oct. 13.

“This year, we have the highest number of nominations in several years, if not the entire history of the event, at over 200,” St. Louis said.

He explained that the Student Senate’s Educational Affairs Committee reviews all nominations and presents the top choices to the general assembly, which makes the final decision after a discussion and vote. St. Louis added that the Educational Affairs Committee will notify the finalists that they could be chosen for the Last Lecture.

St. Louis said students can learn a lot from attending this event.

“It’s important that students understand the concept of lifelong learning and how a commitment to personal growth is a lifelong process that occurs within and outside the classroom,” he said. “In order to make the most of our lives, our capabilities of reflection and critical thinking must be actively nurtured long after graduation, and faculty members understand that very well.”

Last year, students nominated Kathleen Underwood to give the Last Lecture. Underwood has been teaching history and women and gender studies at GVSU for 16 years. She said she was surprised to be chosen.

“Being asked to give the Last Lecture was one of the greatest honors I’ve had in my teaching career, which spans 33 years,” Underwood said. “It mattered a lot more to me that it was students than if it were faculty. To be highlighted by students makes all that we have ever done worthwhile.”

Underwood’s Last Lecture topic was the importance of taking risks and taking time off to figure out a career path. She said this topic stemmed from her personal experiences as a VISTA volunteer working to fight poverty abroad.

“I am convinced that being a student is a privilege,” she said. “You don’t get this chance ever again to be so focused on learning.”

Although this message may contradict the message that students should get their degree in four years or less, she said she believes it can be valuable to have these experiences.

Overall, she said the Last Lecture series is a great idea because it gives students a voice on campus.

“The fact that it is student-driven is really important,” Underwood said. “I like seeing our students use that influence.”

She offered some advice for this year’s speaker: “Speak from your heart, and don’t worry about what you think students will want to hear.”

To nominate a professor for the Last Lecture, visit For more information about the process or the event, contact Scott St. Louis at [email protected].