Dr. James Allis of the Hope College philosophy faculty will present the address “Last of the Human Freedoms” on Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m. in the Maas Center auditorium 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.
Allis is a professor of philosophy at Hope, where he has taught since 1986. An acclaimed teacher, he received the college’s Hope Outstanding Professor Educator (H.O.P.E.) Award from the graduating senior class in 1990, Janet L. Andersen Excellence in Teaching Award in 2000, and Ruth and John Reed Faculty Achievement Award in 2003. He was also chosen to co-deliver the college’s Commencement address in 1995.
He writes about questions of teaching, learning and knowing. His areas of interest also include Plato, political philosophy, the philosophy of law, existentialism and the history of ancient philosophy, and he has also given papers on legal pragmatism and on original intent in the law. His publications also include the book “A Guide to Resources in Ancient Philosophy,” co-authored with Dr. Albert Bell of the Hope history faculty, as well as a variety of book reviews and scholarly articles.
Recognition that he has received at Hope through the years for his scholarship has also included faculty development and faculty/student collaborative learning grants, and a Knight Fellowship. He also received teaching fellowships and a Mellon Fellowship while in graduate school.
During the current school year, Allis is teaching courses including Cultural Heritage I, focusing on “Rome: Freedom Violence, Order” this fall, and “Tragedy, Comedy, Democracy in 5th-Century BCE Athens” in the spring; and Modern Philosophy, exploring “Ethics and the Rise of Modern Science” this fall, and “A Geography of Evil, Suffering, and Hope” in the spring.
He is a 1975 graduate of Dartmouth College. He holds Master of Arts degrees from Jersey City State College and the University of Pittsburgh, an Ed.M. from Harvard University and a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh.
Allis taught mathematics and science at a New Jersey junior high school for four years before pursuing graduate studies and his career in higher education.
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 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 230 collegiate chapters with more than 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 28 “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 first 150 attending will receive their choice of one of two books while supplies of each last: either “Man’s Search for Meaning,” by Victor Frankl, or “The Active Life,” by Parker Palmer. The chapter will also distribute 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., between 10th and 13th streets.