WIU Alum Returns to Campus to Share Life Experiences with Students
February 11, 2016
MACOMB, IL – Alumnus Kevin Lampe returned to campus Wednesday to share his life experiences after college with Western Illinois University business communication and journalism students.
"I am anxious to share with students some of what I learned here and how my experiences shaped my life, the ups and downs of my professional career," he said.
Lampe, who received his degree in mass communication in 1983, is the executive vice president of KurthLampe, a strategic communications firm in Chicago, owned by his wife, Kitty Kurth. Lampe jokes that he married into the business.
He and his wife have advised a vast number of clients, ranging from Democratic presidential candidates to prime ministers of countries around the world.
After graduation from Western, Lampe embarked on a variety of jobs, including event manager, photographer's assistant and a full-time stand-up comedian. He once opened a show for comedian George Carlin.
"In the late 1980s or early 90s, I went to open mic nights and began doing comedy full-time; I rode the wave of the boom of comedy. I was also able to learn skills like stagecraft, writing and life on the road," he said.
When Lampe made the transition from comedy to politics, he said he noticed similarities.
"The best stand-ups have a healthy lack of self-esteem," he said. "They want to take chances that no one else is willing to take, just like political candidates."
These days, Lampe and his wife provide media relations services to candidates and companies, including working with speakers each year at the Democratic National Convention since 1996. The best day of his professional life, Lampe said, was hearing President Barack Obama deliver his national convention address in 2004 after working with him on his delivery style for several days.
"We worked on things like timing," Lampe said. "Barack is a great writer and he wanted input. We were all very honest, and he work really hard in the final weeks and days before the speech. He made himself a great public speaker."
While talking with students, Lampe discussed how his life experiences, including how being fired from several jobs, helped guide his path.
"Now (my wife and I) have created our own firm, doing what we wanted to do, how we wanted to do it. We're about trying to help people communicate," he told students in a WIU business communication class Wednesday morning. "You are going to make some really valuable mistakes that are going to help you. Once (what you are doing) becomes boring, get out. I just kept saying 'yes' to things I probably shouldn't have."
Lampe said WIU's size helped present him with a variety of opportunities to get involved in campus life, including working for WIUM, the local Public Radio station, being a member of the first staff at the campus radio station, WIUS, and being a charter member of the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity at Western. Since graduation, Lampe has held several national leadership positions in the fraternity, including serving on the foundation board and as president of the national chapter.
"If you are willing to participate, you will be given responsibility," he said of Western. "A lot of my success has to do with what I learned here."
Lampe returned to WIU at the invitation of Management and Marketing Assistant Professor Cathy Onion.
"It is always great to have alumni on campus speaking to students and sharing their experiences," Onion said. "Kevin's presentation about his international business experiences along with the 'life lessons' he shared, helped students see how there is not one right path after college - there are many - and how the power of saying 'yes' to opportunities can help you find your niche. Kevin was grateful for the many opportunities he had on campus, through his fraternity Phi Kappa Theta, University Union Board (UUB), WIUS, WIUM, etc. The connections he made on campus have resulted in life-long friendships. He is proud to be a WIU alumnus."
While on campus, Lampe taped an episode of The Purple Chair, with host Amanda Shoemaker, director of donor relations at Western. That episode will air on cable Channel 3 at a later date.
For more information about KurthLampe, visit KurthLampe.com.