Beth Stapleton was supposed to be a rock star. That is just one of the many lesser-known things people will learn about Mississippi College’s chair of the Modern Language Department if they attend her “Last Lecture.”
Stapleton’s lecture will take place in the Jean Pittman Williams Recital Hall located in the Aven Fine Arts building, which is fitting since her intention is to express, through music, the most important lessons she has learned over the course of her life.
The term “Last Lecture” became widely-known after Professor Randy Pausch’s book of the same title became a best-seller upon its release in 2008. The book was based on a lecture he gave after doctors told him he had three to six months to live.
Instead of discussing elements of computer science as he would during a normal lecture, he shared with his audience the things in life he thought mattered most. Since then, it has become a national trend for professors to present similar speeches, which allows them to teach their students more than the required course material.
MC’s chapter of Mortar Board sponsors a series of these lectures for the campus. Mortar Board President Bryce Murray said that this is MC’s third year to participate in the trend. Mortar Board chapters across the country have taken charge of these presentations, making it a priority for their schools.
“Students are interested in what these respected professors have to say once they’re outside of the classroom,” said Murray.
At MC, members of Mortar Board must nominate candidates, speak for them, and then participate in a blind vote to decide the speakers for each semester. Though Murray never had the opportunity to take one of Stapleton’s classes, he could not help but to succumb to the hype around campus about her lecture.
“A lot of students—even underclassmen—are very excited about Dr. Stapleton’s speech” he said.
Stapleton, who has previously served as the faculty sponsor for Mortar Board, said she knew just how big of an honor it was to be selected.
“As MC faculty, we share life with students,” said Stapleton. “More than 85 percent of the students that come in my office talk to me about life—not grades or school.” She recalled faculty that invested in her during her undergraduate career at MC, and she expressed her hope for this lecture to provide yet another way for her to pour into the students.
Stapleton teaches upper-level Spanish and Linguistics courses, so she regularly has the opportunity to share her love of the language and of travel with her students. Music is a passion of hers that often gets overlooked.
“I love Spanish and to travel, but music is more universal,” she said. Stapleton also said believes that the music angle will make the points in her lecture more relatable to her audience.
Stapleton admitted that some of the ideas she plans to share in her speech are cliché. “But clichés are clichés for a reason,” she said, “They’re important!” Stapleton’s hope is to breathe new life into these tired thoughts through music.
Though the typical “Last Lecture” takes on a rather serious tone, Stapleton said she intends to keep things light. She plans to cover a multitude of topics with a healthy dose of humor during her lecture, but Stapleton said that if she could leave the MC student body with only one thought, it would be to emphasize the importance of love.
“Love is the nuts and bolts of life,” she said, “We’re called to love God and to love others. Period.” Students can hear her elaborate on this and more at her lecture on Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. in Aven.
– Gwen Matuszewki, Contributing Writer