posted February 8, 2010

Last Lecture Series to Feature Fred L. Johnson III

 Dr. Fred L. Johnson III, associate professor of history at Hope College, will present the address "Let it not be in vain" on Wednesday, Feb. 17, at 7 p.m. in the Maas Center auditorium.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

In the talk, Johnson will be reflecting on implications of Christ's life and death for the choices people make.  "We can never adequately repay the gift Christ gave us, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try," he said.

Johnson will be speaking through the "Last Lecture Series" organized by the college's Alcor chapter of the national Mortar Board honorary society to feature members of the faculty.

The title of the lecture series, which the chapter initiated during the 2008-09 school year, 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.

Johnson joined the Hope faculty in the fall of 2000. His primary field is 19th century U.S. history, specifically the Confederacy during the Civil War. His other areas of study include the U.S. in the 20th century, the U.S. military and Africa.

His most recent publication, which he co-wrote with Tayannah Lee McQuillar, is the book "Tupac Shakur: The Life and Times of an American Icon," published in January by Da Capo Press of Cambridge, Mass.

His 2004 documentary "The Klan in Michigan, Part I: Reconstruction," which he created with former Hope communication professor Dr. David Schock, won a State History Award from the Historical Society of Michigan in 2005.  His current scholarship includes working on a book project, "America's Blind Spot:  U.S. Foreign Policy in Africa from 1945 to Present," from which he wrote a chapter ("The Chasm is Wide: Unspoken Antagonisms between African Americans and West Africans") for the 2008 book "The United States and West Africa."

In addition to his scholarly work, Johnson is the author of three novels:  "Bittersweet" (2002), "A Man Finds His Way" (2003) and "Other Men's Wives" (2005).

During the college's Homecoming Weekend in 2002, Hope's students elected him recipient of that year's "Faculty Appreciation Award."  The graduating class chose him to deliver the Commencement address in May of 2003, and in May 2005 the graduating Class of 2005 presented him with the 41st annual "Hope Outstanding Professor Educator" (H.O.P.E.) Award. He has most recently been asked by the Mortar Board organization to make a presentation for its "Last Lecture Series."

Johnson received his bachelor's degree from Bowie State College in Maryland, and his master's and doctorate from Kent State University in Ohio. His past career experiences include serving as a corporate trainer and as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.

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 227 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.

The chapter also 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 philosophy, delivered the first "last chance talk" in the spring of 1962.

The Maas Center is located at 264 Columbia Ave., on Columbia Avenue at 11th Street.