CMU Lecture Series 

All lectures will be presented in Inman Lecture Hall (Stedman 200)


Dr. Merrill E. Gaddis, Pi Gamma Mu, and The Gaddis Memorial Lecture

Speaker: Sharon Geuea Jones '02

Title: The Importance of Asking "Why?"

Date: October 16, 2023

Bio: Sharon Geuea Jones is an advocate and licensed attorney in Missouri, Sharon Geuea Jones, uses her two decades of nonprofit association experience to advocate for individual rights, government transparency, and corporate accountability. Sharon's experience in policy, politics, and relationship building allow her to connect advocates and organization leaders to key legislative decision-makers. She also has extensive experience managing grassroots and professional organizations. Sharon has written multiple articles for professional publications and is a frequent speaker on advocacy and legal strategy issues. She has been recognized in Missouri Times 100 People to Know and the Missouri Lawyers Weekly Power List. She currently resides in Columbia, Missouri.  The Jones Advocacy Group was founded In 2019 by Sharon Geuea Jones. The team combines non-profit legal support, lobbying, communications, and membership management skills to provide a robust and customizable suite of services to our clients.  The Jones Advocacy Group's mission is to help make government transparency and accountability a reality by guiding clients through the legislative, judicial, and regulatory systems.

About the lecture series: The Kappa Chapter of Pi Gamma Mu, international honor society for the social sciences, sponsors the Merrill E. Gaddis Memorial Lecture. The lecture, established in 1984, honors the memory of Dr. Merrill Elmer Gaddis (1891-1958) who founded the Kappa Chapter at Central College in 1935 and later served as regional chancellor of the honorary society.

Dr. Gaddis, who earned a doctor of philosophy degree in history from the University of Chicago, joined the Central College faculty in 1929. A renowned lecturer, he was a professor of history and later chair of Central’s Department of History and Political Science until his death.

Members of Pi Gamma Mu choose the Gaddis Lecturer from persons suggested by Central Methodist social sciences faculty and other members of the University community, including alumni.

Funding for this lecture is provided from funding from Pi Gamma Mu.


samara-hakimThe Dr. Harold W. Sunoo World Peace Lecture Series

Speaker: Samara Hakim, JD

Title: TBA  

Date: February 1, 2024

Bio: Samara Hakim, JD is the President and Founder of CulturGrit, LLC. She is an international culture and inclusion thought leader, data strategist, keynote speaker, writer, coach, and facilitator. For over a decade, Samara has equipped leaders with the mindset and skills to work with those who are different than them, by mitigating bias and integrating culture into business practices and metrics. Samara’s work has spanned across regions, countries, industries, and sectors, including Fortune 500 and 100 companies, for-profit and non-profit organizations, start-ups, and educational institutions.

Samara has been a member and leader on several advisory boards and communities of practice. She is a member of Forbes Coaches Council, a member of the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge Committee at the University of San Diego Kroc School for Peace and Justice, a member of the National DEIB Committee of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and the DEIB Director for its San Diego chapter. Samara has also been a member of the World Peace through Law section of the Washington State Bar Association, for over 10 years.

Samara has greatly enjoyed supporting dozens of students across colleges and universities, being a growth partner for their career and leadership development. She is a dynamic speaker who engages people to think beyond their comfort zone, to work across differences. She draws from her cross-cultural work, career as a lawyer, and her personal background. Samara was honored with the 2018 Women of Excellence Award by Diversity Professional Magazine, the 2019 American Honda Premier Partner Award, and the 2021 NAWBO San Diego Women’s Advocate Award.

Samara grew up in Lebanon, and she currently resides with her husband and two children in San Diego, California. She loves chocolate, nature, biking, dancing, deep conversations, and travel.

About the lecture series: In the spring of 2015, just before his passing, The Dr. Harold W. Sunoo World Peace Lecture Series was established by the Sunoo family to sponsor an annual guest speaker to stimulate students to think about how they can use their education to contribute to world peace. Dr. Sunoo was well-known for challenging his students to “use your brains and think,” and took his responsibility to stimulate critical thinking among his students very seriously.

Dr. Sunoo was hired by Central Methodist University in 1962. After 30 years, he retired with distinction as the Division Chair for Social Sciences and as the first Bishop Eugene Frank Professor. He published more than 20 academic books during his career and taught for shorter periods at the University of Washington, NY City College, University of California Berkeley and Irvine and Yonsei University, Republic of Korea.

His legacy will live on with the thousands of students who were influenced by his teaching, and the legions of Korean activists who drew inspiration from his life. Through the Dr. Harold W. Sunoo World Peace Lecture Series, his kindness, global vision, and wisdom will continue to touch the students at his beloved Central Methodist University.


nathan-turesdallGeist Yancey Lectureship

Speaker: Nathan Truesdell

Title: TBA  

Date: March 6, 2024

About the lecture series: Dr. Joe Geist was a faculty member at Central Methodist College from 1972 to 1998 and was named Professor Emeritus upon his retirement from teaching. He served as curator of the Ashby-Hodge Gallery of American Art from 1998 to 2014 and now serves as its registrar. His professional life has been dedicated to the furthering of the liberal arts, culture, literature, and learning.

Mr. Tom Yancey, a 1954 alumnus of Central, joined the faculty in the Swinney Conservatory in 1958. In 1972, he served as the Conservatory's dean, and in 1995 he accepted Professor Emeritus status. In addition to being an accomplished musician, Tom was a well-known artist. Tom, along with Joe, was a co-founder of the Ashby-Hodge Gallery of American Art and was curator of the Gallery from 1993 until 1998.

The purpose of the Geist Yancey lectureship is to provide a lasting legacy of Joe's and Tom's endless pursuit of the furthering of these pillars of higher education. The lectures will have a theme of cultural affairs, and the speaker shall be a noted/national individual from outside the CMU community.

Funding for this lecture was a gift from Dr. Joe Geist and Dr. Tom Yancey.


dr.-tao-jiangGil and Ruth Fleer Lecture Series

Speaker: Dr. Tao Jiang, Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Rutgers University

Title: Zhuangzi and the Tragedy of Personal Freedom in Chinese History   

Date: March 27, 2024

Bio: Tao Jiang is Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, with a joint appointment in the Religion Department and the Philosophy Department. He specializes in classical Chinese philosophy and Mahāyāna Buddhist Philosophy. Jiang's 2021 book, Origins of Moral-Political Philosophy in Early China (Oxford University Press), received the 2023 Joseph Levenson Prize honorable mention from the Association for Asian Studies. He is the director of Rutgers Center for Chinese Studies and co-chair of the Neo-Confucian Studies Seminar at Columbia University.

About the lecture series: Former faculty member and sponsor of Alpha Phi Gamma “MOKERS,” Dr. Gilbert “Gil” Fleer '55 and his wife, Ruth Hombs Fleer '58, had a vision to enhance the spirit of excellence at CMU. Their passion for their alma mater where they met, and the love of their son, Jeffrey G. Fleer, led them to make gifts to the University, enhancing the Central experience for students for generations to come.

Fleer was an assistant professor of religion at Central from 1959-65. Before his passing, Dr. Fleer was a social science professor at Western Texas College and a United Methodist counselor. He spent many years counseling young adults in unconventional settings. The couple’s strong support of leadership training led them to fund the Gil and Ruth Fleer Fund for Excellence in Values-Based Education at CMU.

This lecture is funded by the generosity of Gil and Ruth Fleer.


dr.-michael-behe-23.jpgDr. Thomas A. Perry Faith & Science Lecture Series

Speaker: Dr. Michael Behe, Professor of Biochemistry Lehigh University

Title: Chance or Purpose?: The Argument for Intelligent Design in Biology  

Date: April 24, 2024

Bio: Michael J. Behe was awarded the Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1978 from the University of Pennsylvania for his dissertation research on sickle-cell hemoglobin. He is currently Professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In his career he has authored forty technical papers and three books, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (1996), The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism (2007), and Darwin Devolves: The New Science of DNA That Challenges Evolution (2019), all of which argue that living system at the molecular level are best explained as being the result of deliberate intelligent design. The books have been reviewed by the New York Times, Nature, Philosophy of Science, Christianity Today, and many other periodicals.

About the lecture series: Thanks to a generous gift from the Rev. Garth Leigh, wishing to honor the memory of Dr. Thomas Perry, longtime chair of the CMC English Department, this lecture has been endowed at Central Methodist University. Rev. Leigh sponsored a lecture series as a testament to the impact Perry had on generations of students at Central, encouraging them to think deeply, wrestle with greater questions, and challenge themselves to be the best citizens and scholars. The annual lecture will focus on the role that minister-scientists have played in the development of both religious traditions as well as scientific discoveries.

In addition to spending 20 years as chairman of the Department of English at Central Methodist College, Perry also served as chair of the Division of Literature and Languages and of the honors program. He sponsored Scribblers and Scrawlers, a club for aspiring creative writers, hosting and entertaining them monthly in his home. Perry is the late father of Tad Perry, current member of the board of trustees at CMU. Rev. Leigh served as a United Methodist Pastor for many years, and has worked as a freelance writer since his retirement from ministry in 2000. He currently lives in Kansas City, Mo. with his wife, Cheri.

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