Penn State will host a world leader when Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, speaks on campus tonight as part of the Penn State Distinguished Speakers Series. The lecture is titled “The Future of Ethical Leadership in a Global Society.”
Robinson’s lecture, which will take place at 8 tonight in Eisenhower Auditorium, is a joint effort between the Student Programming Association, the Schreyer Honors College, the University Park Allocations Committee and the Presidential Leadership Academy.
The lecture is open to both students and members of the community.
Robinson, who was elected in 1990, was Ireland’s first female president, but resigned shortly before her seven-year term ended to serve as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Robinson was also the recipient of a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. Barack Obama presented Robinson with the award.
Melissa Carey, the speakers chair of SPA, called the event “unique” for the organization. While SPA usually sponsors five to six distinguished speakers per year, Carey said the Robinson lecture was different because of the collaborative nature of the event. Carey also said that Robinson is the fifth speaker this year.
SPA usually bears the brunt of the planning for speaker events, but the Schreyer Honors College is handling more of the logistics with the Robinson lecture, Carey (senior-finance and energy) said.
Donna Meyer, the coordinator of student programming for the Schreyer Honors College, said the honors college began the process of setting up the lecture about six months ago.
The Schreyer Honors College follows a three-part mission, part of which is global perspective, Meyer said. The honors college wanted to “give students exposure to a world leader,” she said.
“We want to focus on the importance of ethical leadership in a global society,” Meyer said. She also called Robinson’s message “timely” and hopes the emphasis on ethics will be the main message students take from the lecture.
Carey said she’s heard positive student reactions to the lecture, adding that she thinks students will be excited to hear from the former Irish president because St. Patrick’s Day is next week.
“She’s probably the most distinguished speaker we have. It’s exciting to have a world leader on campus,” she said.
Meyer is hoping there will be a strong student showing at the lecture.
“It’s a once in a lifetime deal. We want to pack the Eisenhower,” she said.
Christian Brady, dean of the Schreyer Honors College, echoed Meyer’s statements about the importance of bringing in a speaker with experience in world politics.
“A visit from such a global leader provides all members of the Penn State community — students, faculty, residents — an opportunity to hear first-hand from someone whose advocacy and leadership can challenge us to press for the resolution of problems that threaten many regions of the world to the detriment of us all,” Brady said in a press release.
Meyer also said that while she thought all students would benefit from Robinson’s lecture, the female students would be inspired by Robinson’s prolific career in politics and international relations.
“It’s a great understanding of women’s roles in politics. Her intelligence and diplomacy are attributes that help her connect with and influence others around the world,” Meyer said.