Winford Gordon, an assistant professor of psychology at Western Carolina University, will present “Listen Carefully in Case Life Happens” at the Last Lecture Series event on Friday, Oct. 16.
The series annually presents a speaker from the WCU faculty selected by students to answer the question, “If this were your last time to address a group of students, what would you say to them?”
Gordon’s talk, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 2 p.m. in the theater of A.K. Hinds University Center.
“Often the really important messages in life are drowned out by the ordinary noise of everyday living,” said Gordon. “If we don’t take the time and exert the effort to still ourselves, I think we miss those important messages.”
Gordon’s lecture was inspired by his own experience. He grew up in Charleston, S.C., and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Wofford College and a doctorate in experimental psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
While in Chapel Hill, he worked for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and for the Environmental Protection Agency.
He came to Western North Carolina in 1985 when he joined the faculty at Warren Wilson College. At Warren Wilson, he taught for six years and served as vice president for college relations for three.
In 1994, he left the college and focused on whitewater racing. He had been a canoe and kayak instructor and raced off and on since 1983, twice earning spots on the U.S. national team. He competed in the 1996 Olympic trials, but did not earn a spot on the team that competed in the Summer Games in Atlanta.
He then joined the faculty at Brevard College and led the inaugural “Voice of the Rivers” trip. During the 1,800-mile environmental outreach expedition that involved paddling kayaks from Brevard to the ocean below New Orleans, Gordon and students shared with 6,000 people the message of protecting water quality.
Gordon went on to become vice president for advancement at Brevard College and worked in fundraising from 1997 until he joined the faculty at WCU in 2004.
The Committee on Student Learning and the Coulter Faculty Center sponsor the Last Lecture Series, which reflects WCU’s commitment to engaged teaching and to supporting a teaching and learning environment that encourages passion and commitment, said Laura Cruz, co-chair of the Last Lecture committee and associate professor of history.
Attendees can expect to be inspired by Gordon, said Corey Miles, a sophomore psychology and philosophy major from Weldon and member of the nomination and selection committee for the Last Lecture Series.
“He incorporates humor and knowledge into everything he speaks about, and he can take the most abstract idea and present it in a way anyone can understand,” said Miles. “His speech will be an enjoyable experience and well worth the time spent listening to him.”