If you were given the opportunity to give a lecture to students about anything, what would you say?
Binghamton University professor David Archer posed this question on Monday night as part of the annual “Last Lecture” speaker series.
The “Last Lecture” is a tradition inspired by Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at age 45 and was told he only had a few months of good health left. He delivered a final speech entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” which went viral on the Internet and sparked a movement where professors are invited to give a speech as if it were to be their “last lecture.”
Archer, an education professor, focused the talk on his life and experiences as a basketball coach, his work as a teacher and a professor and his years as mayor of Endicott from 1992 to 1999. He focused on large-scale themes such as making a difference in the lives of others and having a good work ethic.
Archer talked about the how he tried to teach leadership through action while teaching at Union-Endicott High School.
“My biggest thing is that I believed in students. I believed in what they can do,” Archer said. “When I became the teacher of Participation and Government, I put in a unit where the kids had to learn how to do community service in order to pass the course. When you really want something, you have to make yourself different.”
Archer said that everyone in the crowd should have a personal mission statement to motivate themselves. He emphasized that this should be an evolving idea, not an unmovable goal.
“When people ask me about my personal mission statement, I tell them that it is to help people and help them understand their talents,” Archer said.
Archer recounted how, as mayor of Endicott, he would always look at people’s shoes before hiring them.
“We needed a clerk treasurer one time who would be in charge of a $19 million budget. But the guy I was interviewing had no shoelace in his shoe,” Archer said. “If he couldn’t figure out how to put a lace in his shoe and tie it, how is he going to run a $19 million budget? It’s the little things, the personality things, that matter.”
In the past, professors such as Ryan Vaughan, from the English department, and Ann Merriwether, from the psychology department, have been invited by the Student Association Programing Board (SAPB) to participate in this tradition and share their stories with the student body. A ballot was sent out earlier this year among students in all BU schools, and Archer received the most votes.
“I know firsthand from having him in class that he is a great professor and is very interactive with students so we thought he would be a great fit for this,” said Erica Ozolins, insights chair at the SA and a senior majoring in management.
Student response to Archer’s speech was positive, as many students recounted experiences as part of the professor’s classes.
“He really inspired me, as a professor and as a person, to be the best I can be,” said Emily Kusterbeck, a senior majoring in mathematics. “He’s a great professor and everyone who takes his class thinks so.”