The Vernon L. Pack lecture and residence program means to strengthen the ties between ǿմý and the community through research and creative work.

Vernon L. Pack Distinguished Lecture & Residence Program

The Vernon L. Pack Distinguished Lecture and Scholar-in-Residence program was established in 2002 through a generous gift from alumnus Vernon L. Pack, a 1950 graduate of the University. A distinguished lecturer visits campus to address important current issues that will allow the ǿմý community to reflect on ethical, spiritual and social issues. In alternate years, an esteemed scholar is invited to campus to reside for up to one academic year in order to provide an educational enrichment experience for ǿմý students.

2023 Vernon L. Pack Lecture: Heather McGhee

The Vernon L. Pack Distinguished Lecture Series at ǿմý University is proud to bring to campus Heather McGhee, a New York Times bestselling author and policy advocate, for a lecture at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 4, in the Church of the Messiah, 51 N State St, Westerville. This event is free and open to the public.

Heather McGhee designs and promotes solutions to inequality in America. Over her career in public policy, she has crafted legislation, testified before Congress and helped shape presidential campaign platforms. Her book The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together spent 10 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was longlisted for the National Book Award and Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. It is a Washington Post and TIME Magazine Must-Read Book of 2021.

McGhee is an educator, serving currently as a visiting lecturer in urban studies at the City University of New York’s School of Labor and Urban Studies. She has also held visiting positions at Yale University’s Brady-Johnson Grand Strategy Program and the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics.

For nearly two decades, McGhee helped build the non-partisan “think and do” tank Demos, serving four years as president. Under her leadership, Demos moved their original idea for “debt-free college” into the center of the 2016 presidential debate, argued before the Supreme Court to protect voting rights in January 2018, helped win pro-voter reforms in five states over two years, and provided expert testimony to Congressional committees, including a Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 2017. She also led the research campaigns behind successful wage increases for low-paid workers on federal contracts, as well as at McDonalds, Walmart, and other chain retailers.

As an executive, McGhee transformed Demos on multiple levels. She led a successful strategic planning and rebranding process. She designed a Racial Equity Organizational Transformation which led to an increase in staff racial diversity (from 27% people of color to 60% in four years), an original racial equity curriculum for staff professional development, and a complete overhaul of the organization’s research, litigation and campaign strategies using a racial equity lens. She also nearly doubled the organizational budget in four years.

An influential voice in the media and a former NBC contributor, McGhee regularly appears on NBC’s Meet the Press and MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Deadline White House and All In. Her 2020 TED talk is entitled Racism Has a Cost for Everyone.

She has shared her opinions, writing and research in numerous outlets, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Politico and NPR. McGhee’s conversation on a C-SPAN program in 2016 with a white man who asked for her help to overcome his racial prejudice went viral, receiving more than 10 million views and sparking wide media coverage that included a New York Times op-ed, a New Yorker piece, and a CNN town hall.

In spring 2018, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz asked McGhee to advise the company as it designed an anti-bias training for 250,000 employees in the wake of the unjust arrest of two black men in a Philadelphia store. Mcghee wrote a report with recommendations for how Starbucks can apply a racial equity lens to their businesses, and how other companies both large and small can benefit from doing the same.

McGhee also played a leadership role in steering the historic Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and was one of the key advocates credited for the adoption of the Volcker Rule. She holds a bachelor’s degree in American studies from Yale University and a juris doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley School of Law. McGhee is the chair of the board of Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, and serves on the boards of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Open Society Foundations’ US Programs and Demos. For more information, visit .

Heather Mcghee

Previous Lectures

  • 2002 – Doris Kerns Goodwin, acclaimed historian and Pulitzer Prize in history winner for No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II.
  • 2004 – Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International and host of CNN’s international affairs program Fareed Zakaria GPS.
  • 2005 – Alan Lightman, noted physicist and critically acclaimed author of Einstein’s Dreams.
  • 2008 – Ed Begley Jr., actor and environmentalist.
  • 2010 – Dee Dee Myers, White House press secretary under President Clinton from 1993-1994, political analyst and commentator, and author of Why Women Should Rule the World. Myers is an expert on the issues facing women in Washington and in leadership positions of all kinds.
  • 2012 – Steven Pinker, Harvard University professor, best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize finalist. He has been listed on TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in The World” and Foreign Policy magazine’s list of “The World’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals.”
  • 2014 – Sir Salman Rushdie, one of the most celebrated authors of our time. He penned a handful of classic novels, influenced a generation of writers, and received a Queen’s Knighthood for “services to literature.” He stands as both a pop culture icon and one of the most thought-provoking proponents for free speech today. His novels include Midnight’s Children, The Satanic Verses, The Moor’s Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath Her Feet and The Enchantress of Florence.
  • 2016 – Amy Goodman, award-winning investigative journalist, author, and syndicated columnist. She is the host of Democracy Now!, airing on more than 1400 public television and radio stations worldwide.
  • 2018 – Piper Kerman, bestselling author of “Orange is the New Black” and criminal justice reform activist.
  • 2020: Postposed due to Covid-19.
  • 2021: Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of the 1619 Project and a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine, and Jonathan Kozol, author of the New York Times Bestseller, The Shame of the Nation, educator, and activist.

Distinguished Scholars-in-Residence

  • 2003 – Valentine Moghadam, a professor born in Iran, who conducts research regarding development, social change, and gender in the Middle East, North Africa, and Afghanistan.
  • 2005 – Lois Raimondo, an internationally-known photojournalist and Pulitzer Prize finalist nominee for her work on the New York City Mitchell Lama housing project for New York Newsday.
  • 2007 – Wande Abimbola, President of the International Congress of Orisa Tradition and Culture, and world-renowned expert on Ifa, a West African sacred divinatory and literary system.
  • 2009 – Richard Alley, an acclaimed geologist who conducts research on environmental issues including abrupt climate changes, glaciers, ice sheet collapse and sea level change.
  • 2011 – Harrell Fletcher, renowned visual and conceptual artist and recipient of the 2005 Alpert Award in Visual Arts.
  • 2013 – Robert Fefferman, acclaimed mathematician in the field of harmonic analysis and its applications to elliptic partial differential equations and its relationship to probability theory.
  • 2015 – Bonny Norton, Professor and Distinguished University Scholar in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia, Her highly cited book, Identity and Language Learning (2000/2013) has introduced novel conceptions of identity to the field of language education.
  • 2017 – Bryonn Bain, prison reform activist, actor, author, hip hop theater innovator and spoken word poetry champion.
  • 2019 – Winona LaDuke, Native American activist, environmentalist, and former Green Party vice presidential candidate.
  • 2022 – Libby Larsen, one of America’s most performed living composers.
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