Seniors select Prof. John Michael Bailey as Last Lecturer

Joseph Diebold

Last week, Northwestern’s senior class chose psychology Prof. John Michael Bailey to give their Last Lecture.

The Last Lecture is traditionally given at Wrigleyville bar The Cubby Bear by a professor selected by the graduating senior class. Senior Year Committee co-chair Joe McManus said the committee received more than 700 nominations for the speaker slot. The three most popular professors – Bailey, political science and Middle East studies Prof. Wendy Pearlman and McCormick and Kellogg Prof. Verinder Syal – were put on the ballot, which opened May 11. Voting closed May 16, and Bailey won with 52 percent of the vote.

McManus said the committee is “really excited” for the class of 2012 to get to hear Bailey’s final words of advice.

“We’re just looking forward to an opportunity to get together with the professor in a really casual environment and basically get whatever he wished somebody had told him at our age, kind of those last pearls of wisdom that maybe we didn’t learn in the classroom but that we should know before we go off into the world,” the Communication senior said.

In an email to The Daily, Bailey wrote he was “thrilled and honored to have been asked.”

“I’d like to think that it was mostly because of the many students who took Human Sexuality while they were here (or those who meant to), but I know that it also represents continued interest in the controversy related to the class last year,” he wrote.

Last year, Bailey’s 600-person Human Sexuality class drew national attention after an optional, post-class demonstration involved a woman being penetrated with a motorized sex toy. The class was not offered this year.

McManus said the Last Lecture is always a popular event.

“Every year Last Lecture is extremely well-attended, and the fact that we got so many unique respondents for the nominations definitely indicated to me that this is something that lots of people are interested in and that they would want to attend no matter who it was,” he said.

McManus said any professor who teaches a large lecture class like Bailey’s Human Sexuality would be well-known on campus.

Weinberg senior Brittany Wright, who took Bailey’s Human Sexuality class as a sophomore, said she nominated Bailey during the initial period and voted for him last week.

“Bailey offers a really great sense of respect for his students,” Wright said. “There’s a lesson that a lot of us are going to need as we enter the real world where things are more serious.”

Bailey said he will have three messages for the graduating seniors.

“First, I made some big mistakes last year, and I will try to help the Class of 2012 learn from them,” he wrote. “Second, I will remind them how great it’s been to be a Northwestern undergraduate. Third, I’ll try to be funny.”

While the Last Lecture was previously sponsored by the Northwestern Alumni Association, McManus said this year it is solely the responsibility of the committee. Previous professors who have given the Last Lecture have included Slavic languages and literature Prof. Gary Saul Morson in 2011 and psychology Prof. Renee Engeln-Maddox in 2010.

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