AYINDE J. STEVENS
Student Voice Editor
What do a former U.S. senator, a veteran TV and film actor, a founder of a major computer company, an award-winning historian, a former U.S. secretary of state, a political analyst and a broadcast journalist all have in common?
They are part of the inaugural New Jersey Speakers Series, presented by Fairleigh Dickinson University.
The series, which will run from October 2014 to April 2015, is the newest star in the Speakers Series constellation. The first iteration of the series was started in St. Louis in 1998.
Each series consists of a group of lectures that gives the public access to some of the most influential people of the modern era.
The New Jersey Speakers Series is modeled after series in Philadelphia and Boston, according to the njspeakersseries.org website.
All series have either a college or university as a presenter and a group of local sponsors. New Jersey is the first speaker series to be recognized as a statewide presentation.
The New Jersey Speakers Series will be sponsored by The Star-Ledger/nj.com, WCBS Newsradio 880 and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC). The lectures will take place at NJPAC in Newark.
This year’s roster includes Madeleine K. Albright, who served as U.S. secretary of state from 1997 to 2001; actor Alan Alda of “M*A*S*H” fame, a long-time New Jersey resident; Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computers; former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine; CNN senior political analyst David Gergen; Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough; and journalist Dan Rather.
According to its website, the series promises to bring “diverse opinions, profound insights and fascinating discussion on a broad scope of issues” to audiences.
Since the speakers don’t have to adhere to a theme, they will most likely talk about their life and experiences, which should give the audience a new insight into the world at large.
Speakers who have been part of the series in other regions include animal activist Jane Goodall, former President Bill Clinton, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, writer Frank McCourt, actor Robert Redford, former First Lady Laura Bush and actress Mia Farrow.
FDU President Sheldon Drucker wrote in March that the university “has been looking for an appropriate vehicle to garner recognition, to enhance our brand and to raise awareness of the extraordinary activities of the University, its faculty and students.”
Drucker believes that the speakers series will not only help raise the stature of the university but also will be a potential recruiting tool for incoming students.
Drucker and Richard Reiss, senior vice president for University Advancement, began discussing the idea of expanding the series to New Jersey.
Reiss went to different series to see how they operated. Drucker also proposed the idea to the University’s Board of Trustees, which gave it the green light. The university then contacted the company that runs the speakers’ series, which provided a list of available speakers. The speakers were chosen by subscribers from last season.
Reiss, who is very optimistic about the success of the series, said he hopes that at least “two or three of the speakers each year will spend time on our campuses interacting with students and faculty.”
Tickets to the New Jersey Speakers Series are sold by subscription only.
A subscription includes all seven lectures. The cost ranges from $245 to $475.
Understanding that students will be less likely to spend money for the series due to limited finances, Reiss wrote in an email that the university is “working very hard to ensure that some of the speakers come to campus.”
He also said that the university “has a limited number of tickets that it will distribute to faculty and students for each lecture.”
Tickets for the general public are now on sale through NJPAC.