Lefton hopes to bring big-name speakers to campus

Rex Santus

President Lester Lefton is initiating a new speaker series beginning March 29 with photographer Trey Ratcliff.

Ratcliff, a photographer known for his travel photography blog, Stuck In Customs, will serve as the inaugural speaker, handpicked by Lefton.

“It’s really important for students and faculty, as well as the community, to interact at a university with people of significance,” Lefton said. “Whether those are politicians or scientists or thought leaders or people who can make a difference in the world, our goal in this presidential speaker series is to, two or maybe three times a year, bring someone of note to campus that would have wide appeal.”

Although Lefton personally chose Ratcliff, he said future speakers would be decided based on suggestions from colleges and departments at Kent State.

“I have put together a process whereby colleges or departments could nominate individuals,” Lefton said. “What we have said is I will facilitate this by matching money. So if a college puts up $10,000, and I put up $10,000, we might be able to attract [someone of importance].”

Lefton said, at the moment, he has nobody particular in mind to participate in the speaker series.

“At this juncture, Mr. Ratcliff is here to kick off the series, but I expect that the next speaker will be chosen through this nomination process,” Lefton said. “I have ideas of people who I think would be really interesting and fun…but I don’t want to shape this too much. I’d rather have the students and faculty nominate individuals.”

Students should attend because the presentation will offer interesting, new ideas, Lefton said.

“Is this bringing Madonna to campus? No,” Lefton said. “This is not entertainment. It’s about expanding people’s views of the world, and Ratcliff happens to be a fantastic artist.”

Lefton hopes to obtain even more influential and powerful speakers for future speeches.

“What if we could get the Dalai Lama?” Lefton said. “You laugh, but he’s been to Harvard. I don’t know if we can get him to Kent State, but we want political leaders, religious leaders, thought leaders. Not every student is going to be interested in every one of these things, but if a couple hundred students show up, it’s well worth the time.”

Ratcliff will speak at Cartwright Hall, March 29 at 8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Contact Rex Santus at [email protected].