Neil deGrasse Tyson, Twyla Tharp headline banner year for campus speakers


Neil deGrasse Tyson

Tyson-LectureWhen Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson came to UIndy in October, the 4,000-plus tickets were snapped up in a few days. Tyson, an internationally known scientist and television personality, spent some three hours on stage in the Nicoson Hall arena, entering to a rock-star welcome. More than 400 more fans viewed the standing-room-only show on closed-circuit video in Ransburg Auditorium. Speaking well past the allotted time, the director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium roamed the stage, bantering with the audience while clicking through slides and breezing through a parade of topics, from the risk of asteroid collisions to his appearance in a Superman comic book.

At one point, Tyson took a cell call and held his phone to the microphone. It was his comrade Bill Nye the Science Guy, who offered words of inspiration: “You can change the world,” Nye said to the astonished crowd. “Go Greyhounds!” Tyson’s whirlwind UIndy tour began with an informal hour-long chat before a select group of students. He addressed a VIP crowd at a reception preceding the main event. The visit, part of the Blanche E. Penrod Lecture Series,was sponsored in part by Graystone Consulting, Monarch Beverage Co., Krieg Devault LLP, and RJE Business Interiors.

Twyla Tharp

Twyla_Tharp-4888Indiana native Twyla Tharp, who spoke in March in Ruth Lilly Performance Hall, has choreographed more than 160 works, including Hollywood films, TV specials, Broadway shows, full-length ballets, even figure-skating routines. Creativity is not a magical gift for the chosen few, she said; it’s available to anyone, but only as a byproduct of preparation and discipline. “Each and every one of us is a creative person,” the artist told the crowd in Ruth Lilly Performance Hall. “Accidents only happen to people who are working.” She also stressed the need to build on the past. “Before you can think out of the box, you have to start with a box.” She earlier spent nearly an hour in private discussion and a Q&A session with select students. The Creative Habit was the title of her bestselling 2003 how-to book and also of her talk, presented by the Sutphin Lectures in the Humanities

Richard G. Lugar

Senator Richard Lugar spoke to 450 Hoosier high school students, as well as several journalists, in December at the 38th annual Lugar Symposium for Tomorrow’s Leaders, presented by UIndy’s Lugar Academy for about 450 select high school juniors representing more than 70 Indiana counties. Topics included nuclear weapons, Ebola, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, NATO, terrorism, oil production, climate change, the European recession and America’s “pivot to Asia.” Lugar apologized for the “heavy” content, but his goal, as always, was to inform bright young people about the issues facing the world and encourage them to take an active role.

Charles Marsh

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the topic of the 2015 Showers Lectures on March 30. Charles Marsh, Commonwealth Professor of Religious Studies and director of the Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia, is the author of 2014’s Strange Glory: a Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which won the Christianity Today Book Award for History/Biography. Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian known for his writings about Christianity’s role in the secular world and for his opposition to the Nazi regime, which led to his arrest and execution. His best known work is the influential book The Cost of Discipleship, published in English in 1948. UIndy’s Showers Lectures in the Christian Religion are made possible through the generosity of the late J. Balmer Showers, a bishop of the Evangelical United Brethren Church and former University trustee.

Gustav Niebuhr

Award-winning journalist Gustav Niebuhr discussed religious intolerance and stereotyping in a February lecture at UIndy.
Niebuhr, whose career has included covering religion for the New York Times, Washington Post, and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is the author of Beyond Tolerance: How People Across America Are Building Bridges Between Faiths. He is an associate professor at Syracuse University and founding director of its Carnegie Religion and Media Program. The event was cosponsored by the Indianapolis-based Center for Interfaith Cooperation. Niebuhr has won numerous awards for his reporting on religious issues in the United States and abroad. He comes from a family of prominent theologians and public intellectuals, including his father, Richard Niebuhr, who taught theology at Harvard Divinity School; grandfather H. Richard Niebuhr, who taught at Yale Divinity School; and great-uncle Reinhold Niebuhr, who taught at New York’s Union Theological Seminary and influenced American politics for decades.