Many pennies for many thoughts:
Donation to fund new Campus lecture series © Dec. 7, 2007 Norwich University Office of Communications

Photo of President Emeritus Russell Todd, for whom the series will be named.

file photo by Jay Ericson Retired US Army Maj. Gen. Russell Todd, for whom the lecture series will be named, speaking at Norwich over the summer.

What can $1 million buy? At Norwich that sum will fund a major, high profile speaker series to benefit the University for years to come.

The program will be designed to engage the entire Norwich and central Vermont communities in discussion of major issues, thus enhancing the overall educational experience at the University.

During the October 2007 Board of Trustees meeting, John and Ellen Drew announced that the Drew Foundation will donate $1 million to Norwich for the specific purpose of funding a lecture series. John Drew served as a member of the Norwich Board of Trustees from 1998-2007.

“We’re excited about the lecture series and feel that it will really enhance the academic stature of Norwich,” said Vice President of Academic Affairs Bjong Wolf Yeigh.

The new series will be named in honor of US Army retired Maj. Gen. and President Emeritus W. Russell Todd, ’50, and his wife, Carol, in gratitude for their dedicated service to Norwich and the Northfield community. Todd served as the University’s president from 1982-1992. Todd said that he and his wife were thrilled to have the series named in their honor.

“In a rural setting such as Northfield it is not always easy to attract speakers to campus,” Todd said. “With this series, Norwich should be able to reach out further to bring important, significant lecturers to the University. This will bring an additional aspect of learning to the University.”

Carol Todd said she felt engaging both the local community and student body will have great benefit.

“Our intention is to invite and involve the local community of Central Vermont,” she said. “It is hoped that the lecture topics will be worked into the curriculum so the issues discussed will be studied by Norwich students.”

Norwich President Richard Schneider also said the series will draw high-caliber speakers to the campus that will benefit the entire community. Moreover, he said the naming of the series after the Todds was befitting of a couple who had done so much for the University and the surrounding community during their tenure.

”It is wonderful that the contributions of General and Mrs. Todd are being recognized in this most important way,” Schneider said. “This will allow us to attract the very best speakers on an international basis to Norwich University, giving our students, faculty, staff and our friends in the community an opportunity to engage with some of the most serious and important thinkers of today.”

The program will be under the direction of the Academic Affairs Office and Yeigh, who said he expects a formal steering committee to be formed within the next few months. The series itself, he said, is slated to officially begin this academic year. Yeigh said the committee will be investigating similar programs around the nation to provide direction for the Norwich series.

“We’re eager to get this program started,” Yeigh said. “We’re planning on looking at best practices that are being followed at other universities for this type of series and incorporating much of that information into our own program.”

One model likely to be emulated by Norwich is The University Lectures at Syracuse University. The Syracuse series is seven years old and under the coordination of Esther Gray.

“Our primary focus has always been on creating a cross-disciplinary series that is academic in its focus,” Gray said. “We aimed to bring in speakers who were so impressive their appeal and connection went across all disciplines.

“Without a doubt, the most incredible benefit of our series has been the exposure to our students, faculty, and community of some of the greatest scholars, thinkers, authors, and scientists around today,” she said.

According to Gray, there are numerous ways to determine the success of the program, ranging from attendance to national attention. She also notes intangible measurements such as, “the 88-year-old WWII bomber pilot who drove from Pennsylvania to shake hands with George McGovern because they were in the same unit.”

Gray said she feels the exposure to prominent speakers creates learning opportunities for students that can’t be calculated by grades.

“I love to watch the faces of our students sitting in a lecture, feverishly writing notes or listening with their chin in their hands, completely engrossed in what the lecturer is saying,” she said. “Personally, I measure our success in things like the look on a student’s face when they get to shake hands or share a thought with a speaker.”

While other area colleges such as UVM, Dartmouth College and Champlain College have departmental lecture series, none has anything university-wide on the same scale as Norwich’s new program. And due to the expected breadth of the new series, Schneider pointed out that this is just one more way to ensure Norwich’s students enter the world as informed citizens, proficient thinkers and positive role models.

“Our students will have an opportunity to wrestle with current and future issues and challenges,” Schneider said. “This will help Norwich prepare the leaders of tomorrow.”