posted October 16, 2012

Lecture to Reflect on How Outlook Changes when One’s Child Has Cancer

The experience of having a young child diagnosed with cancer and the impact that has on one’s outlook on life will be the focus of a lecture at Hope College on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. in the Maas Center auditorium.

Derek Emerson of the Hope College staff, whose young son Oliver was diagnosed with stage-four Neuroblastoma in August 2010, will present the address “The Blessings of Disruption: Ramblings from the Children’s Cancer Ward” through the “Last Lecture Series” organized by the college’s Alcor chapter of the national Mortar Board honorary society.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

Oliver, who is six and is in remission, has experienced an extensive variety of treatments and surgeries since his diagnosis.  He was in remission in November 2011, but relapsed in January 2012.  After undergoing an experimental treatment he went back into remission in May, and is currently undergoing additional treatment.

Derek Emerson is director of events and conferences at Hope, and has been a member of the college’s staff since 1989.  His wife, Mary Ann Permesang, formerly worked part-time in the college’s information center and was also previously a resident director and international student advisor at the college.  They are both 1985 graduates of Hope.  They have four children, ranging in age from six to 25.

The title of the lecture series, which the chapter initiated during the 2008-09 school year to feature members of the college’s faculty and staff, 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 speakers 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.

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 229 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 has received multiple awards at the Mortar Board National Conference during each of the past several years, including being named the top chapter during the national conference in July 2010.  During the conference this past summer, the chapter received a “Golden Torch Award” and 17 “Project Excellence” awards.

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 chapter will give away copies of the book “Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson to the first 100 in attendance, as well as copies of the “Last Lecture” to audience members following the address.

There will also be a freewill donation box, with all gifts supporting Mortar Board’s many service projects.

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