KSU professor attends Oprah’s Favorite Things taping

Brittney Trojanowski

A Kent State professor is still receiving gifts from Oprah’s Ultimate Favorite Things 2010 show.

Dianne Kerr, an associate professor of Health Education and Promotion, said a matching cashmere sweater and throw are “on their way.”

Kerr said she was chosen to be an audience member because of her contribution to her community and the large amount of help she has given to others.

“I’ve done a lot of work with AIDS in the community, I have a support group for women with breast cancer and I’ve sponsored an AIDS orphan,” Kerr said.

She said none of the audience members knew what Oprah’s show was going to be about that day.

Oprah surprised the audience after she opened up the Nov. 19 show with a few thoughts on meditation, Kerr said. Oprah then ripped off her black dress, revealing a sparkling red dress underneath while exclaiming that the show was her “favorite things” show.

“What they told us in the studio was, you were all selected because you’re givers and we want to do a show about giving,” she said.

This highly anticipated show, an annual event, gives each audience member a few of Oprah’s Ultimate Favorite Things. This year’s gifts ranged from a brownie pan to a 7-day Caribbean cruise, Kerr said.

“I think she wanted to give back to givers,” she said. “It’s really amazing that she would do that stuff for people she didn’t even know.”

Kerr said she has been a big fan of Oprah and uses clips from the show in her classes because of the TV star’s devotion to giving support to AIDS and women’s health.

Last summer, Oprah announced that this would be the last year for her show and invited her viewers to go to her website and explain why he or she is an ultimate fan.

“I’ve always wanted to at least be in her audience,” Kerr said. “I’ve always wanted to shake her hand.”

Kerr went on the website, explained how she integrates the show into her lectures and that her program has inspired some of her students to do more things for others.

“I just thought, ‘I’m going to go on there, say how I feel and probably never hear anything about it,’” she said.

The call came in October to invite her to the November taping in Chicago. Kerr said she thought it was a prank because her students tease her about using Oprah clips in class.

“It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person,” said Carolyn Shinsato, a former student of Kerr’s. “She has really done a lot of work to educate and advocate health issues that everyone faces on a daily basis.”

Shinsato said taking Kerr’s class has motivated her more than the professor’s visit to the Oprah show.

“She’s a great educator and just having her as a teacher motivates me to take the time to educate others the same way she has taken the time to educate us,” Shinsato said.

Rachel Chilton, a graduate student, was taking Kerr’s class last semester and witnessed the excitement.

“She’s just always trying to help people,” Chilton said. “When we found out that it was Oprah’s Favorite Things Show, we just thought it was so fitting because she obviously works so hard to help other people and for her to get recognition for it, it was really cool.”

Since the show, Kerr has given several loans to women in Ecuador that needed help through Kiva.org, a nonprofit loan organization, and has sponsored another AIDS orphan.

Kerr said she sat back by the door where Oprah makes her entrance and finally got to shake her idol’s hand.

“It was an amazing experience,” Kerr said. “I’ll never forget it.”

Contact Brittney Trojanowski at [email protected].