posted November 4, 2008

Lecture on “Learning to Live Before You Die”

Dr. Dianne Portfleet of the Hope College English faculty will present the address "Learning to Live Before You Die" on Monday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. at Hope in Wichers Auditorium of Nykerk Hall of Music.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

Portfleet is the inaugural speaker in the new "Last Lecture Series" organized by the college's Alcor chapter of the national Mortar Board honorary society to feature members of the faculty.  An adjunct associate professor of English, she is one of the chapter's co-advisors.

The title of the series is rhetorical.  The lectures are not literally presented as the last that the speakers will deliver at Hope, but are meant to highlight the advice that they would most want to share if the event was indeed the final opportunity for them to address the college's students.  The professors are being asked to reflect on their careers and lives, and to think deeply about what matters to them and about what wisdom they would like to impart.

The concept was inspired by the "Last Lecture" delivered at Carnegie Mellon University by Dr. Randy Pausch on Sept. 18, 2007.  Pausch, a member of the Carnegie Mellon faculty who had terminal pancreatic cancer - a fact known at the time that he spoke - presented "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams."  He died on July 25, 2008, at age 47.

In memory of Pausch, the first 50 people to arrive for Portfleet's address will receive a copy of Pausch's book "The Last Lecture."  All others will receive a bound copy of the transcript of Pausch's Last Lecture.

Portfleet has been a member of the Hope faculty since 1988.  In the summer of 2007, she received one of only three "Excellence in Advising" awards presented nationwide from the national Mortar Board organization for her work as a chapter advisor.  The graduating class presented her with the annual "Hope Outstanding Professor Educator" (H.O.P.E.) Award in 2006, and she won the "Hope's Outstanding Woman" Award in 2003.  She was the college's Commencement speaker in May 2007.

Her teaching and research specialties are expository writing, Western world literature and children's literature. Her courses in the college's cultural heritage and Senior Seminar programs are especially popular with students.

She is the author of two books on Walter Wangerin Jr.:  "Walter Wangerin, Jr.:  Artist, Poet, and Prophet," published in 2007 by Greenleaf-Wilcop Press; and "Shaping Our Lives with Words of Power: A Study of the Major Works of Walter Wangerin, Jr.," which was published in 1996, and was the first critical, in-depth study of his work.  She is also the author of the 2005 book "The History of the Adventure Mining Company from the Ancient Miners to the Present," which she wrote after her son purchased the mine, located in the Upper Peninsula, and has written numerous scholarly articles.

A 1969 graduate of Pennsylvania State University, Portfleet did graduate work at the University of Georgia and received her Ph.D. from Columbia Pacific University in 1984. She also taught for 12 years at Grand Rapids Baptist College (now Cornerstone University).

Mortar Board is a national honor society that recognizes college seniors for outstanding achievement in scholarship, leadership and service, and provides opportunities for continued leadership development, promotes service to college and universities, and encourages lifelong contributions to the global community.  Since its founding in 1918, the organization has grown from the four founding chapters to 226 collegiate chapters with nearly 250,000 initiated members across the nation.

The Alcor chapter has existed at Hope since the 1936-37 academic year, although it did not become part of the national Mortar Board organization until 1961.  In addition to Portfleet, the chapter is advised by Martie Bultman, who is the wife of Hope College president James E. Bultman.

The Alcor chapter sponsored a "last chance talk" during the 1960s.  The idea back then was to invite a faculty member to express his/her ideas under the hypothetical assumption that this would be the last opportunity to address the student body.  The late Dr. D. Ivan Dykstra, professor of philoosphy, delivered the first "last chance talk" in the spring of 1962.

Nykerk Hall of Music is located in the central Hope campus at the former 127 E. 12th St. between College and Columbia avenues.