Giuliani Set to Speak Tonight at Alumni Arena
Nearly 8,000 people are expected to pack the stands of Alumni Arena for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's sold-out speech tonight.
The speech, which is the second this year in the Distinguished Speaker Lecture Series, is set to start at 8 p.m. According to Dennis Black, vice president for Student Affairs, the lecture should be an exciting treat for students, staff and members of the UB community.
"Rudy Giuliani is someone with a wealth of experience," said Black. "He is at the center of our world today, and that is a unique quality that few can provide."
This year, Giuliani will be lecturing at UB as the "Student Choice" speaker. According to Student Association President Christian Oliver, Giuliani was the student government's first choice for the distinction because of "the example that he set in our nation's most troubling times" and because "his words of wisdom would be beneficial to our students."
"He adds star power to the bill, if nothing else," Oliver said. "There are a lot of really good speakers that no one has ever heard of, and unfortunately, we don't feel that students would come out to see them."
According to Bill Regan, director of conferences and special events, the purpose of holding the annual series is twofold.
"Primarily, our goal is to enhance the quality of student life and give students the opportunity to see people in the national spotlight consistently," said Regan. "We also try to get alums to come back to the school on a consistent basis."
The series began in the fall of 1987 with Sam Donaldson, ABC News chief White House correspondent, and has brought approximately four speakers annually since that time.
NBC "Today Show" co-host Katie Couric kicked off the series in October. She will be joined by Giuliani, astronaut Mae Jemison, best-selling author Amy Tan and former U.S. senator Bill Bradley.
"I think the series is a worthwhile cause because you walk away from it with newfound knowledge and inspiration," said Eileen Bordonaro, a sophomore business major. "I am looking forward to seeing Giuliani."
Melissa Napolitano, a sophomore psychology major, said the series is impressive because of the diversity of personalities who come to speak at UB.
"I think it is refreshing that they have celebrities from different backgrounds to give their perspective on worldly issues," said Napolitano.
According to Black, the number of speakers throughout the year makes UB unique when compared to other colleges and universities.
"There are many schools that have distinguished speakers come, and they generally come at commencement and receive an honorary degree," Black said. "Our approach has been 'Why do that the last day, when you are walking out the door? Why not do that several times a semester for everyone?'"
Regan said he would like to have more speakers come to UB, but due to the university's complicated schedule, his office can usually schedule only around five.
"It's hard to do more, given the nature of the academic calendar and logistics," he said.
According to Regan, there are many factors that go into the process of selecting speakers. Students can suggest a speaker online at the Office of Special Events' Web site, and survey cards are passed out to the audience at each event.
"Looking at the students' interest is first and foremost," said Regan.
The SA gives the recommendation as to who will be the "Student Choice Speaker." Last year, the "Student Choice" speaker was former president Bill Clinton.
"We have continued to stay with the series because we have a lot of input on who comes," Oliver said. "Primarily by consolidating our resources (with other sponsors) we are able to bring the biggest speakers possible to UB."
Following SA's lead, Shiju David, vice president of the Graduate Student Association, said the GSA decided to help sponsor the series last year so they could provide graduate students with free tickets to see the speakers.
According to Regan, speakers usually charge universities and colleges less than they would charge a corporation. Occasionally, as was the case with Couric, speakers donate the money to their favorite charity. Couric donated her speaking fee to the organization she helped found, the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance.
"Couric was really taken by our invitation, and was very impressed by the lineup that was around her, and thought it would be really neat to come up to Buffalo and do it," said Regan.
UB is serious about delivering an adequate platform, Regan said.
"The Distinguished Speaker Series lends the university credibility as a big time institution," said Regan. "This is a place that we can have some pride in."
"Basically, it lends confidence to their mindset to come to UB," he said.
According to Black, students from every grade level, but especially freshmen, are encouraged to participate in the series.
"We want to engage first-time students in life outside the classroom, and the Distinguished Speaker Series is one of the events that is attractive," said Black.
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