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IPFW trims back Omnibus lecturers

Speakers’ fees cited for move to cut series in half

Skyrocketing speaker fees have forced IPFW to cut its annual free lecture series in half, a university official disclosed late Wednesday.

IPFW’s Omnibus Lecture Series will bring three nationally recognized speakers to campus this fall at a cost of more than $100,000.

The series is equally underwritten by the English Bonter Mitchell Foundation and IPFW’s operating budget. Some lectures also are partially supported by minor sponsors.

Neither of the major sponsors has reduced its financial support, said Irene Walters, IPFW’s executive director of university relations and communications.

That’s despite the $8.4 million budget shortfall that IPFW officials revealed earlier this year. To cut expenses, the school laid off 18 workers and opted not to fill 24 vacant, non-teaching positions.

But the lecture series has been spared, said Walters, chairwoman of the Omnibus Committee. University officials are proud of offering the series, which they believe contributes to the quality of life in northeast Indiana, she said.

The Omnibus Lecture Series is known for bringing in well-known speakers, including actress and activist Mia Farrow, political comedy troupe the Capitol Steps, travel writer Rick Steves and retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

The last series, which was announced in August 2012, included six speakers scheduled in September, October and November 2012 and in February, March and April of this year.

Escalating prices forced the group that schedules the lectures to make tough choices.

When the series began in 1995, activist Ralph Nader charged $5,000 to visit the local campus. Now, someone of broadcast journalist Diane Sawyer’s stature charges $80,000 in fees alone, Walters said. Transportation, hotel and meals are all extra.

The Omnibus Committee this year chose speakers whose fees and expenses fall in the $30,000 to $40,000 range, she said. Marketing costs are an additional expense – which explains why more marketing will be done by email this year.

The same budget the committee has always used allowed for only three speakers this year.

“I don’t know that it will be forever,” Walters said of the reduced schedule.

But she’s realistic about the financial challenges facing many local businesses. And she knows that foundations have limited funds to distribute among many worthy causes.

Walters is willing to work with anyone who steps forward expressing interest in underwriting part of next year’s lecture series. She’d even consider resurrecting next spring’s dates if offered the necessary resources.

“I would love to have a flood of calls” from prospective donors, she said. “That would make me so happy.”

A scientist/inventor, the CEO of a company known for its public opinion polls and a best-selling author are this year’s scheduled speakers. They are:

•Bill Nye, scientist, inventor and host of “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” will speak Sept. 12.

Nye made it his life’s mission to promote scientific curiosity, IPFW said in a news release.

A graduate of Cornell University, Nye began his career as an engineer for Boeing before becoming an actor on Seattle’s “Almost Live!” sketch comedy show. In 1993, PBS launched the immensely popular “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” making Nye a household name.

Nye has also appeared in many documentaries and lent his expertise to cable news shows including “Larry King Live” and “The Rachel Maddow Show.” The Indiana-Purdue Student Government Association is a co-sponsor for this lecture.

•Jeannette Walls, best-selling author of “The Glass Castle: Demon Hunting and Other Life Lessons,” will speak Oct. 23.

Her memoir has sold 3.5 million copies in the U.S. and is being adapted into a major motion picture. It recalls Wall’s unconventional upbringing by unorthodox parents. Raised in the American Southwest and a mining town in West Virginia, Walls and her siblings endured poverty and great uncertainty.

Walls, however, grew up to become a renowned columnist for New York magazine and MSNBC.com and has appeared on “Good Morning America,” “Larry King Live” and “Oprah.”

•Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup Inc. and author of “The Coming Jobs War,” will speak Nov. 12.

The Gallup organization is famous for its public opinion polls. He is also the creator of the Gallup Path, an economic model that examines relationships between workplace behavior and outcomes for businesses.

“The Coming Jobs War” draws on 75 years of Gallup studies to explain why those who control the job market also control our future. Clifton’s “unique perspective makes him an authority in organizational consulting and public opinion research,” IPFW said in a statement.

His lecture is co-sponsored by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, Lutheran Health Network and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

The Omnibus series is sponsored by the English Bonter Mitchell Foundation and the Dr. Louis and Ann B. Schneider Foundation.Free tickets are required for all Omnibus Lectures.

Tickets will be available three weeks before each event and may be obtained from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Larson Box Office in the Gates Athletic Center.

They are also available online at www.ipfw.edu/box-office. A $1 convenience fee is charged for tickets acquired online.

Tickets might be available on the day of the lectures in the Rhinehart Music Center if seats remain empty one hour before the presentation

Campus parking is free.

sslater@jg.net

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