Last Lecture emphasizes role models, heroes


Story by Mykaela Cross, Assistant Editor

Professor of Biology Darcy Russell, an alumna of BU and adviser to Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, delivered her chapter of the Student Activities Council’s Last Lecture series Tuesday night in Rice Auditorium. In her speech, which was held in conjunction with inaugural week events for President Lynne Murray, Russell explored the importance of having role models and being a hero.

This semester’s event included a pre-lecture reception with cookies and punch, an introductory performance by the Baker University Speech Choir and a science rap video. It was also billed as the Charles Kopke Lecture in honor of Kopke, who awards a BU professor every year with the Kopke Award for Distinguished Teaching. Russell has been on the receiving end of the award and found the new name fitting for the event.

In Russell’s lecture, she explained how role models and heroes are crucial throughout a person’s life and how the two, though similar, are not the same.

Thinking that a role model is a stepping stone for becoming a better person, Russell identified some of her role models as her mother, father and first female science professor, who pushed her to “hit the books,” get interested in science and discover new role models. One role model Russell strongly admired as a student was scientist Barbara McClintock, who discovered why it was that some corn kernels change color. Russell admired McClintock’s perseverance and love for what her work.

“She refused to see a difficult problem as an obstacle, but instead saw it was a joy,” Russell said.

Though both role models and heroes are ideas that Russell values, she told why she thinks they are not the same.

“Role models are chosen and heroes appear,” Russell said.

Russell explained that while role models were the people we choose to admire, heroes could be anyone who steps up to aid those around them, even a complete stranger. To Russell, a hero is someone like the stranger who decided to donate a kidney to Russell’s sister who was undergoing dialysis every morning.

Russell ended her speech by giving a cheer to the Kansas City Royals and encouraging students to find their own role models and to become heroes themselves.

Sophomore Kristina Heinrich is a member of Speech Choir who attended the event and enjoyed the experience.

“I love the idea that anyone can be a hero,” Heinrich said. “Where we normally think of being heroic as a hard thing to do, she made it seem so simple.”

One element of the story that will stay with Heinrich as she continues along this semester is finding that role model to emulate.

“I could really relate to her having a hard time finding a female role model in her field, since I want to go into ministry,” Heinrich said. “It’s also male-dominated, but I’ll keep searching for that role model.”