University News

University Theme Speaker Series Lineup

September 5, 2007

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MACOMB, IL -- To celebrate and raise awareness of Western Illinois University's 2007-2008 theme, "Global Challenges and Personal Responsibility – Environmental Sustainability," the University Theme Committee has announced its lineup of internationally-known speakers, which includes an environmental activist and attorney, the author of the First Year Experience (FYE) common reading and a director/filmmaker.

The 2007-2008 Speaker Series begins with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. discussing "Our Environmental Destiny" at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3 in Western Hall on the WIU-Macomb campus. Kennedy's reputation as a resolute defender of the environment stems from a litany of successful legal actions. He was named one of Time magazine's "Heroes for the Planet" for his success helping Riverkeeper lead the fight to restore the Hudson River, which helped spawn more than 130 Waterkeeper organizations across the globe.

Kennedy serves as chief prosecuting attorney for Hudson Riverkeeper and president of Waterkeeper Alliance. He is also a clinical professor and supervising attorney at Pace University School of Law's Environmental Litigation Clinic and is co-host of "Ring of Fire" on Air America Radio. Earlier in his career he served as assistant district attorney in New York City. Kennedy has worked on environmental issues across the Americas, has assisted several indigenous tribes in Latin America and Canada in successfully negotiating treaties protecting traditional homelands and is credited with leading the fight to protect New York City's water supply.

Richard Louv, author of "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder," Western's FYE common reading, will speak via a live video conference at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24 in Western Hall on the Macomb campus and at the WIU-Quad Cities campus. Louv is a futurist and journalist focused on family, nature and community.

He is the author of seven books, including "Childhood's Future," "The Web of Life," "Fly-Fishing for Sharks: An Angler's Journey Across America" and "America II." In addition to his writing, Louv is chair of The Children & Nature Network, a nonprofit organization helping build the movement to reconnect children and nature. He was a columnist for The San Diego Union-Tribune and was also a columnist and member of the editorial advisory board for Parents magazine. Louv has served as an adviser to the Ford Foundation's Leadership for a Changing World award program and the Scientific Council on the Developing Child.

Veteran writer, producer and director James Thebault will present his documentary, "Running Dry," followed by a discussion at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28 in the University Union Grand Ballroom on the WIU-Macomb campus and at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29 on the WIU-QC campus. Thebaut recently wrote, produced and directed "Running Dry," a documentary feature inspired by former Sen. Paul Simon's book, "Tapped Out." The film is a global call to action regarding the evolving world water humanitarian crisis.

Thebaut directed crews in China, Israel, Palestine and Jordan, South Africa, India and the American Southwest in order to visualize the depth of the crisis. He also conducted on-camera interviews with Mikhail Gorbachev, Shimon Peres and many other prominent individuals worldwide. The documentary is narrated by Jane Seymour. He is also the writer, producer, director and co-executive producer of the documentary feature "The Cold War and Beyond," the story of the arms race during the 50 years of The Cold War and its legacy on today's world.

"The committee felt it was important to focus on our theme of environmental sustainability from many different avenues," Ann Comerford, Office of Student Activities director and co-chair of the University Theme Committee, noted. "Mr. Kennedy will provide an overall perspective on the environmental crises currently facing the planet, as well as the look toward our future, while Mr. Louv will provide a specific focus on the growing divide between children and the outdoors. Mr. Thebaut will round out the series for the fall semester with an in-depth look at the water shortage that the world is facing."

Other environmental sustainability-related programs scheduled for the Fall 2007 semester include:

Friday, Sept. 14, 4:30 p.m., University Union 1840 Bistro (formerly the Lincoln Room): "Multicultural Approaches to Environmental Learning," a panel discussion featuring Gordon Rands, management, Amy Patrick, English and journalism; Mindy Harpman, recreation, park and tourism administration and Horn Field Campus; Karen Peitzmeier, Peace Corps Fellows Program; and Sean Meagher, biology.

Tuesday, Oct. 16, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Malpass Library Garden Lounge: "A Vision for the Institute for Environmental Studies (IES)," lunchtime discussion with IES Director Roger Viadero.

Tuesday, Oct. 23, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Malpass Library Garden Lounge: Lunchtime discussion with John Gruidl of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs.

Tuesday, Oct. 30, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Malpass Library Garden Lounge: "Western's Sustainability Efforts," lunchtime discussion with Charles Darnell, Physical Plant.

Thursday, Nov. 1, 7-9 p.m., Union Heritage Room: "The New Green Christianity: Why Bible Religion is Vital to Saving the Earth," by Mark Wallace of Swarthmore College (PA).

Friday, Nov. 2, 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Stipes Hall 501: "The Green Campus: Models of Sustainability in Higher Education Today," roundtable discussion with Mark Wallace of Swarthmore College (Pennsylvania).

Tuesday, Nov. 6, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Malpass Library Garden Lounge: "Social Work and Sustainability," lunchtime discussion with Janice Whitfield, social work.

Wednesday, Nov. 7, 7-9 p.m., University Union Sandburg Theatre: "Maya Lin: A Childhood in the Woods," by Holly Stovall, women's studies.

Friday, Nov. 9, 7-9 p.m., location TBA: "Living Lightly and Inconsistenly on the Campus: Sustainability and the Academic Life," by Scott Slovic of the University of Nevada, Reno.

Monday, Nov. 12, 12-1:30 p.m., University Union Sandburg Lounge: "In the Eye of a Hurricane: Fishing Communities and Global Climate Change," lunchtime discussion with Palma Ingles of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Tuesday, Nov. 13, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Malpass Library Garden Lounge: "Green Marketing," lunchtime discussion with Adee Athiyaman, Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs.

Thursday, Nov. 29, 7:30 p.m., College of Fine Arts and Communication Recital Hall: Steve Curwood, host of National Public Radio's "Living on Earth."

All presentations are open free to the public. Additional programs are being scheduled for the Spring 2008 Speaker Series.

"We would like encourage everyone – students, faculty, community residents – to attend as many of these presentations as possible," Matt Blankenship, WIU psychology professor and co-chair of the University Theme Committee added. "The speakers will present many interesting ideas and topics. It is our hope that those who attend will leave the lectures with more knowledge, information and awareness."

For more information on the Speaker Series or the University theme, contact Comerford at 309/298-3232 or visit

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Office of University Communications & Marketing