Gearing up for Last Lecture

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
Professor Charles Pazdernik

GVL/Kevin Sielaff Professor Charles Pazdernik

Hannah Lentz

Throughout a college career, students experience a lot of lasts. Last days of college, last first days of school and last time it’s socially acceptable to nap in public. However, students aren’t the only ones in the university setting that have final moments — professors do too. At Grand Valley State University, one of the most anticipated “lasts” is the annual Last Lecture delivery.

This year’s lecture will take place on Nov. 19 in the Mary Idema Pew Multipurpose Room at 7:30 p.m.The event is LIB 100 /200 approved, as well as a Panhellenic community event.

Maria Beelen, vice president for educational affairs for the GVSU student senate, is involved with coordinating the event. Any student, faculty or staff member can take a few minutes and fill out the nomination form to suggest a faculty member they think is particularly outstanding, both in the classroom and out, Beelan said.

“The awarded faculty member will then be invited to speak on any topic of their choosing along the tradition of ‘Last Lecture,'” Beelan said. “If you were going to give the last lecture of your life, what would you say? This is an engaging and enjoyable event that enables students to see a professor in a light that they might not get to experience inside the classroom.”

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 GVSU.

During last year’s presentation, classics professor Charles Pazdernik focused on how he overcame his three months of hospitalization as the result of the permanently disabling spinal cord injury he sustained in a cycling accident in the summer of 2014.

“Last year’s invitation to deliver the Last Lecture was a real honor, and it reached me at an absolutely crucial point in my life,” Pazdernik said. “It was the first time I had returned to the Allendale Campus, and I considered it a real possibility that the lecture would end in disaster and stand deservedly as my last.”

Last year, students packed into the Multipurpose Room of the library for Pazdernik’s Last Lecture speech. Over 200 students, faculty and staff were in attendance.

“At the event itself, I was sustained and energized and simply transported by the upwelling of support and affection I experienced, and it convinced me that I remained in possession of the better part of myself,” Pazdernik said. “A year later now, I have returned to teaching and playing a part in a community that my experience has shown to be precious to me. The Last Lecture series is a fine tradition, and I congratulate in advance this year’s distinguished honoree.”

“In order to continue the tradition of a meaningful Last Lecture, we need students, faculty and staff to nominate a professor that has made a difference at GVSU, especially in the lives of students,” Beelen said.

Nominations will be accepted until Oct. 23. They can be submitted at