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SUSC SERIES OFFERS WIDE RANGE OF TOPICS, ACCLAIMED EXPERTS

SHARE SUSC SERIES OFFERS WIDE RANGE OF TOPICS, ACCLAIMED EXPERTS

If you read the schedule for the fall quarter convocation series at Southern Utah State College, held in the SUSC auditorium in Cedar City, you are likely to find something of interest in all the subjects and at least three or four speakers that you would willingly go out of your way to hear.

For example, this term, student and community audiences have heard or will hear, free of charge, from Spanky McFarland, child star of "Little Rascals" and "Our Gang" comedies; James Mapes, a motivational analyst who will discuss "Quantum Leap Thinking," and Stacy Allison, the first American woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest.Highlighting SUSC's International Week in mid-November will be two Chinese speakers: Pei Minxin, director of the May Fourth Foundation for Democracy and one of the chief spokesmen in the U.S. for the student movement in China, and Nien Cheng, author of "Life and Death in Shanghai," who - with her only child, Meiling - was a target for the Red Guard during China's Cultural Revolution.

Add a look at the Utah Shakespearean Festival's Costume Cavalcade with Fred C. Adams; Jesse Bennett as orator Patrick Henry in "Give Me Liberty or at Least a Bill of Rights;" discussions of public lands issues, strategies for peace and defense, combating homelessness and poverty, and a significant commentator for SUSC's Substance Abuse Week, for a series of lectures both interesting and challenging, that leads an outlying Utah community into the mainstream of current thought.

What is a convocation? As liberally used, it means a meeting, or gathering of academicians. SUSC's award-winning lecture series was patterned after the series at Utah State University in Logan, with an assist from the model at Weber State College, said Lana Johnson, who as special projects director at SUSC spearheads the series.

"Some magic keeps falling out of the sky each quarter," she laughed. "We have a skeleton budget, we must do a lot of fund-raising, but somehow we've been cracking these lectures out, 30 a year, for six years.

"After we had been operating for a couple of years, I submitted an application for an award to the National Association of Campus Activities, a federation representing 1,200 colleges. All I really expected to do was to compare notes, but we won their distinguished lecture program award, presented at their national convention in Washington, D.C. in 1986. Through the organization, I met other lecture series promoters, and I sit on an NACA committee."

One unusual aspect of the SUSC convocation series is that it's offered for academic credit in liberal arts and letters. "About 300 students per quarter take the convocation class," said Johnson, "roughly 10 percent of the student body. Besides the lectures, these students must attend at least one art exhibit, one theater performance, and one musical concert each quarter. This way we gather a few converts for the performing arts each year."

With an average weekly attendance of 600 to 700, the series is strongly supported by Cedar City and southern Utah in general, with frequent visitors from Dixie and St. George, from Parowan and Richfield, ranging from elementary to senior citizens. Performing arts programs are especially popular.

"People like it that the college is easily accessible in this small community; everyone knows where the auditorium is, how to get on and off campus, and mobility is easy," she said.

Johnson has broad and enthusiastic support in conducting the series from a committee that meets approximately twice a quarter. "Faculty representing the four schools at the College - education, science, business technology, and communication, arts and letters - and student members bring ideas for programming from their areas," she said.

"We try to tie our lectures into particular events in the community. We look at the issues that are critical for students to consider, and see where we can add a special dimension to programs already strong on campus, contributing to the college life experience.

"The Medical Center sometimes helps to co-sponsor, so do the Chamber of Commerce and City Parks and Recreation. We often cooperate with a focus week, such an Native American or International Week, which the humanities will help fund; and many agents promoting speakers nationally and internationally are willing to work with my limited budget."

Pointing out the sort of contributions speakers can make to student life, she said,"I like to bring in an actor the first week of school, when we have the high school Shakespeare competition here. In connection with Spanky McFarland, we showed videos in the student center so people would know about his career. He spoke of experiences as a child actor, and the bottom line was that not everything in Hollywood is glitter, he works hard and always has. "This is the first year we have had Fred Adams and the Shakespeare Festival, believe it or not, and the costume program that they tour is wonderful. We got James Mapes, who will also give a leadership workshop in the afternoon, through an agent in Washington, D.C., and our associated students helped.

"Jesse Bennett comes for a couple of days through a history professor's suggestion, with help from the Endowment for the Humanities. Stacy Allison, who lived in Springdale for awhile before moving to Oregon, will give a slide presentation, stressing the qualities needed to accomplish such an overwhelming goal as climbing Mt. Everest, and how they can be applied to life in general.

"The Chinese lecturers are also supported by grants from the Utah Endowment for the Humanities. Minxin is a student activist who was in direct contact with the students in the Tienanmen Square incidents. He attends school in the U.S."

Johnson ticked off names of a distinguished lineup of U.S. and world authorities who have lectured at SUSC during the past six years.

These include James Burke from the BBC, author of the show "Connections," who lives in Paris, works in London, and travels the world. Betty Williams holds a Nobel Peace Prize for her work in Ireland - direct involvement in dealing with prejudice, and trying to reduce religious confrontation. Also Alexander Ginsberg, a Russian author living in Paris, and Harold Wilson, former prime minister of Great Britain.

The convocation has hosted gubernatorial debates, and Utah's first lady, Colleen Bangerter. Audiences have heard Mike Farrell and Larry Linville of "Mash;" James Watts, secretary of the Interior; Barry Lopez, a prominent natural historian; and Alex Haley, author of "Roots." Women writers were represented by Eloise Bell of BYU and Carol Lynn Pearson.

There have been poets William Stafford and Richard Shelton, and black activist Eldridge Cleaver; native American Russell Means; DeWitt Jones, photographer for the National Geographic; and cowboy poet Baxter Black. Betty Mahmoody, author of "Not Without My Daughters," talked about being a woman trapped in Iran. The popular arts convocations have brought a smattering of concert pianists, and contemporary dancer Bill Evans, the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, and Burch Mann with her American Folk Ballet.

One lecturer, Renn Zaphiropoulos, a former vice president of Xerox, liked Cedar City so well he has retired there.