Fort Wayne’s local colleges host free public lectures from time to time.
Some of them, such as IPFW’s Omnibus Lecture series, get a lot of media attention. But other free lectures around town aren’t getting as much attention, and they really should be.
I attended two free lecture events recently at the University of Saint Francis, and even though they were equal to — if not better than — most of the events I attended at sold-out auditoriums in college, the crowds were surprisingly scant.
When Chris Buck, a digital animator for Disney who co-directed the blockbuster hit "Frozen," came to town in October, USF hosted his lecture at its new Performing Arts Center in the former Scottish Rite building downtown.
I strategically arrived early, expecting to fight for a good seat. But even after his presentation started, the room was two-thirds full at best, and from the looks of it, most of the attendees were students.
Buck talked about things almost anyone would find interesting — from going to school with Tim Burton to bringing animated characters to life. When I told my family about the presentation, they couldn’t believe the event flew under the radar for most of our community.
I thought it must have been a fluke. Either it wasn’t advertised, or it was better than the usual events, so people weren’t expecting it.
But the same thing happened again about three weeks ago when I attended a different event at Saint Francis, and this time, on a more serious topic.
It was a presentation called "Voices of Restoration," featuring Misty Wallace, an Indianapolis regional coordinator of the Bridges to Life program, which works to bring healing to victims of crime and reduce repeat offenses among Indiana’s offenders.
Wallace was shot in the face at a Burger King pay phone as a teen, and she told us about her experience of nearly dying from her wound and falling into depression after the injury. Then, in a room-silencing turn of events, she invited the man who shot her on stage and introduced him as one of her "best friends" today.
It was an incredible story, but you probably haven't heard it: Fewer than 50 people attended.
Trois Hart, the university’s associate vice president of marketing, was in the audience with me that night. She said the "Voices of Restoration" event was part of the university’s 125th anniversary celebration this year, which is one reason it's hosting more public lectures.
Another reason is that it has a larger, more visible location downtown now at the Performing Arts Center, so it wants to facilitate "deeper conversations" in Fort Wayne.
Hart said the lectures are planned in departments all over campus, so they cater to a variety of interests, and she agrees it’s a shame they aren’t getting much attention yet.
"It’s too bad because they’re very thought-provoking," Hart said. "When you attend them, you think, ‘Wow, it’s too bad more people aren’t here.’"
So to help us know what’s going on, Hart said we can sign up for an email list to get updates throughout the year by sending a message to MarketingRequests@sf.edu with the words "Update me" in the subject line.
She promises it’s not a spam mail system. Last year, it sent about six messages total with updates on when the next events were, she said, so it sounds like a good deal to me.
Of course, another option is checking the university's website and social media pages for updates. IPFW, Ivy Tech and Indiana Tech host free lectures, too, so we have some options. And even if it feels strange scheduling events into our plans without understanding exactly what they are, there’s really not much to lose on our end because they’re free.
At worst, we risk some embarrassment for leaving early, and at best, we expand our educations without the cost.
Free lectures at Fort Wayne’s colleges might be one of our city’s best-kept secrets.
Free, public events at other Fort Wayne colleges
Don’t miss: The Omnibus Lecture Series
Don’t miss: INSPIRE Academy events. It stands for Ivy Tech's Northeast Speakers Performers Intellectual exhibits and Recreational Experiences.
Don’t miss: The University Forum lectures. Watch for updates in February and October every year.