WCU Homecoming begins with another successful “Last Lecture” event

Dr. David Dorondo receives a standing ovation after finishing up his "last lecture." Photo by: Tanner Hall

Dr. David Dorondo, Associate Professor of History, kicked off Western’s Homecoming festivities with his enthusiastic installment of the “Last Lecture” series on Thursday, Oct. 4 at the A.K. Hinds University Center Theater.

Dorondo made his way through the lecture, referencing his passion for horses, history and, of course, teaching. He talked about the importance of truth and honesty in the classroom, regardless of the different teaching methods opened up by advancing technology. Dorondo feels that as a professor, it is his responsibility to teach history by telling the truth with absolute integrity while building a connection with his student audience.

If the number of student votes accumulated to win the award and the large crowd that filled the theater to witness the lecture are any indicators, Dorondo has consistently taken care of those responsibilities to make a profound impact on the lives of his students.

But with great honor and recognition comes great pressure. At one point, Dorondo even referred to this lecture as his “most nerve-wracking public presentation since 1987.”

The “Last Lecture” series began with Randy Pausch’s inspirational lecture about achieving childhood dreams in 2007. Because of pancreatic cancer, this really was Pausch’s last lecture.

Five years later, the “Last Lecture” is an award handed out each year to professors on college campuses across the country. It is also a student perspective award, the only award decided solely by students at Western.

Dr. Don Livingston, professor of political science and public affairs, won the award in 2008, the first year Western brought the lecture series to campus.

Livingston also noted the pressure and stress that come along with the presentation, but said that with the support from colleagues, students and the community, the experience is more than worth it.

“It was wonderful. I will never forget it,” said Livingston about his “Last Lecture” experience.

Dr. Laura Cruz, Associate Professor of History, gets to read what students say about the professors throughout the nomination process. Seeing the appreciation that the students have and how deserving the professors truly are is one of Cruz’s favorite aspects of the lecture series.

But the presentation by the winning professor, above all else, is what makes the award special.

“They give it everything they’ve got. It is literally just amazing,” said Cruz.

This year, with Dr. Dorondo speaking, was no different.

The students wanted the “Last Lecture” series to be a part of Homecoming and it seems to be growing with each passing year. And although the lecture series is completed for this year’s Homecoming, there are already plans to bring it back next year. The voting is done with an integrated awards ballot through catamount email. Students will receive an email in January, in which they can vote on several Western awards, including the “Last Lecture” event.

A video recording of Dorondo’s presentation will be made available soon to watch online, along with the presentations of past winners.