Distinguished Speaker Series

NOTICE: McKendree University and the Hettenhausen Center for the Arts holds the health and safety of its students, community and patrons as a first priority. Acting in accordance with best practices and new guidelines and recommendations issued by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding public gatherings and community events, all events and performances (internal, hosted or rented) scheduled at the Hett through April 15, 2020, have been cancelled or rescheduled, effectively immediately. These events include Shakespeare Festival St. Louis “Cymbeline” (March 16), Young People’s Concert (March 19), TAO DRUM (March 24), The ReMINDers (April 6), and speaker, Ishmael Beah (April 15).

The Hett Box Office will be contacting all paid ticket holders via email with directions how to exchange their tickets or receive a credit. Thank you for your patience as we work through this process.



Dynamic events. Fascinating people. Captivating stories.

Compelling speakers from National Geographic Live are sponsored by the George E. McCammon Memorial Distinguished Speaker Series.

The George E. McCammon Memorial Distinguished Speaker Series challenges students to examine key issues facing our society and apply the tools of their liberal arts curriculum as they search for truth and enlightenment.

In 1998, Class of 1925 alumnus George A. McCammon established the George E. McCammon Memorial Distinguished Speaker Series at McKendree with an endowed gift in honor of his father, Dr. George E. McCammon. Dr. McCammon served as a Methodist minister for 18 years before he became president of McKendree College in 1919.

Like his father, Mr. McCammon believed that significant learning is not limited to the classroom. With this gift to McKendree in his father’s honor, he created a forum for the exchange of ideas that occurs outside the classroom.




Play the Kenny Broad, Cave Diver VideoNat Geo Live! logo

Kenny Broad, Diver & Environmental Anthropologist

Extreme Cave Diving: Exploring the Bahamas’ Blue Holes

Monday, October 14, 2019, @ 7:30 p.m.


Kenny Broad, National Geographic’s Explorer of the Year for 2011, is also an accomplished cave explorer. He pursues this extreme and dangerous occupation not for sport, but to gain valuable insights into the freshwater world beneath our feet. A witty and entertaining speaker and committed scientist, Broad uses his research to study climate change and groundwater pollution to help better manage freshwater resources.

Largely unexplored, unimaginably beautiful, and considered among the most hazardous places to dive, the flooded caves, or “blue holes” of the Bahamas, are a potential treasure trove of scientific knowledge. Broad leads scientific expeditions to these dangerous but fascinating environments, making discoveries with implications for fields as diverse as microbiology, archaeology, and even astrophysics.




Play the Brian Skerry, Underwater Photographer VideoNat Geo Live! logo

Brian Skerry, Underwater Photographer: Ocean Soul

Wednesday, February 26, 2020, @ 7:30 p.m.


    • National Geographic Photography Fellow

    • Regular contributor at the World Economic Forum, TED, and the Royal Geographical Society in London

Wildlife photographer Brian Skerry has spent more than four decades exploring the world’s oceans—capturing “the soul of the sea” for National Geographic for more than 20 years. His images celebrate the mystery of the depths and offer portraits of creatures so intimate they sometimes appear to have been shot in a studio. Skerry dives eight months of the year, often in extreme conditions beneath Arctic ice or in predator-infested waters, and has even lived at the bottom of the sea to get close to his subjects.

His book, Ocean Soul, is a stunning tribute to our seas. Go beyond its pages to journey with him from the glacial waters of the North Atlantic, where harp seals face the threat of declining sea ice, to the balmy waters of Australia, home of the fastest shark in the world—the mako. He’ll share a fascinating look at some of the oceans’ apex predators, as well as stories of hope from marine reserves where wildlife is protected and thriving. A passionate spokesman for the oceans he loves to photograph, Skerry inspires reverence for the marine realm and powerful motivation to protect it.

Interests: Environmental Science, Biology, Chemistry



Play the Ishmael Beah Video


Ishmael Beah, Human Rights Activist and Writer - RESCHEDULED

Wednesday, April 15, 2020, @ 7:30 p.m.

This event has been RESCHEDULED for the 20-21 McKendree Presents season. All current ticket holders will be contacted by the box office about their ticket disposition options.


    • UNICEF Ambassador and Advocate for Children Affected by War

    • Human Rights Watch Children’s Advisory Committee member

    • Author of A Long Way Gone, Memoirs of a Boy Soldier; and Radiance of Tomorrow

Ishmael Beah wants to put a human face on the suffering of children forced to go to war. In 1991, at the outbreak of a brutal civil war in Sierra Leone, West Africa, his parents and two brothers were killed and he was forcibly recruited to become a soldier at age 13. After two years, with UNICEF help, he was removed from the army and placed in a rehabilitation home.

At the 1996 United Nations presentation of the Machel Report on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children, Beah spoke about the devastating effects of war on children in his country. At the 2000 UN Special Session on Children, he served on the panel, “Reclaiming Our Children: The UN Responds to the Plight of the Child Soldier,” with then-Secretary General Kofi Annan and UN agency officials. Today, as a human rights activist and author, he continues his advocacy for thousands of children trapped in wars.

McKendree University hosts an on-campus Model United Nations conference for local high schools. Currently 15 schools and over 300 students attend this conference each semester. McKendree has hosted this conference for over 40 years - it is one of the longest-running Model UN conferences in the country!

Interests: Political Science, Communication, International Studies, Sociology, Ethnic Studies, Philosophy, Psychology, English