Tuesday, March 4, 2014
A 50-YEAR LEGACY
One of the great legacies of Vanderbilt University and its students (and something which began just a few years before we arrived on campus) is the annual IMPACT Symposium. Always attracting a world-class caliber of speakers, usually public figures coming straight out of the daily news headlines, IMPACT represents the "campus as an open forum" idea first championed by Chancellor Alexander Heard when he arrived at Vanderbilt in the early 1960s. But the key distinction for IMPACT is that, it is, and always has been, a student-run organization and event.
This year IMPACT is 50 years old. Here's a look back at its distinguished history, which is still being written as the 2014 IMPACT Symposium was held this month (March) with another distinguished roster of well-known speakers.....
Particularly in its early years back in the 1960s, IMPACT was no stranger to controversy for its choice of speakers. Here's a more detailed look back at two years in particular (1967 & 1968) when the speaker series made news and stayed in the headlines both before and after any speeches were given.....
Ironically, while I covered the Kunstler IMPACT speech while working for WRVU, I have more vivid memories of another visit and speech he made at Underwood Auditorium in the spring of 1975. By this time I was working for WLAC-TV, Channel 5. We had our new electronic video cameras that night and it helped give us a scoop.
The latest craze at the time was "pieing" people, i.e., coming up out of nowhere and hitting a speaker in the face or head with a pie (preferably with cream or custard of some sort on the top). Sure enough, that's what happened. Because we had video tape, we were able to "roll" throughout Kunstler's address and captured the entire incident. Because the other TV stations were using more expensive (and limited) film they did not get the pieing except for its aftermath.
Despite the mess, Kunstler took the prank in good spirits, tasting what was left on the top of his head, pronouncing it tasted good, then leaving it there while he finished his address. Not exactly an IMPACT moment, but one of my first scoops as a TV reporter,and one the station later used in a promotional video to tout the advantages of this new style of "electronic news gathering " (or ENG).