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Northwest Missouri State University


News Release

Sept. 9, 2016

Northwest announces 2016-17 Distinguished Lecture Series

By Lexi Ryan, media relations assistant

Northwest Missouri State University has announced its 2016-17 Distinguished Lecture Series, which features The Onion’s co-founder, the first openly transgender employee of an Orthodox Jewish institution and a Roman Catholic nun.

The series begins Wednesday, Oct. 12, with co-founding editor of The Onion Scott Dikkers. All lectures are 7:30 p.m. in the Charles Johnson Theater at the Olive DeLuce Fine Arts Building.

“To have someone of Dikkers’ stature here, and especially so shortly before the General Election, presented an opportunity we simply couldn’t pass up, especially when he offered to take time during the afternoon to conduct a master’s class for our creative writing students,” Kenton Wilcox, the chair of the Distinguished Lecture Series Committee and an English instructor at the University, said.

The series also includes Dr. Joy Ladin, the first openly transgender employee of an Orthodox Jewish university, and Sister Helen Prejean, an American advocate for the abolition of the death penalty.

“Our committee did not have a single theme in mind when we chose to invite Dr. Ladin or Sister Helen, but we were attracted to hearing from these two women with such unique stories and powerful voices,” Wilcox said. “And, of course, it’s striking that for both women religion is a significant part of their social identity.”

The objective of the Distinguished Lecture Series is to enhance the academic environment through individual discipline and interdisciplinary topics. Supported by the Office of the Provost and the Office of Student Involvement, the series presents the Northwest campus and surrounding communities with opportunities to hear from extraordinary individuals from around the globe. Scholars, world travelers and leaders in their fields visit the Northwest campus to share their wisdom, insight and experiences.

Scott Dikkers | Wednesday, Oct. 12

This is a crazy, unlikely and hilarious story of how a group of friends dropped out of college and started a fake newspaper, which is now one of the most popular humor destinations in the world. As founder of The Onion, Scott Dikkers is proof that unlikely doesn’t mean improbable.

The Onion’s longest-serving editor-in-chief is the godfather of its unique comedic vision and best-selling author whose work has won the Thurber Prize for American Humor, a Peabody and more than 30 Webby Awards.

In the words of Carl Sandburg, “Life is an onion – you peel it year by year and sometimes cry.” With an inspiring insight on seizing opportunity, outrageous life stories and a cultivated sense of humor, he will leave us inspired to peel back our own layers.

Scott Dikkers

Dr. Joy Ladin | Tuesday, Oct. 25

Dr. Joy Ladin is the Gottesman Chair in English at Yeshiva University and the first openly transgender employee of an Orthodox Jewish institution. Her memoir, “Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders,” was a finalist for a National Jewish Book Award, and she was named to the 2012 Forward 50 list of influential or courageous American Jews.

She is the author of seven books of poetry. Her work has been recognized with a National Endowment for the Arts writing fellowship, a Fulbright Scholarship and an American Council of Learned Societies research fellowship.

She will explain how her childhood experience of hiding both her transgender identity and her relationship with God has led her to see transgender experience as enriching rather than challenging, opposing or “queering” religious tradition.

Dr. Joy Ladin

Sister Helen Prejean | Wednesday, Feb. 15

Sister Helen Prejean is a Roman Catholic nun and member of the Congregation of St. Joseph. From 1985 to 1995 she served on the board of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and was chairperson of the Board from 1993 to 1995.

Her book, “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty,” was No. 1 on The New York Times Best Seller List for 31 weeks. In 1996, the book was developed into a major motion picture starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn.

Sister Helen Prejean


For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468