The MSC Wiley Lecture Series is a showcase featuring world-renowned speakers discussing thought-provoking topics of global significance. It is a student-led organization that augments education through the development of leadership and responsibility. The series provides Texas A&M students with opportunities to complement their classroom education by allowing them to directly interact with the men and women who influence the world.
The MSC Wiley Lecture Series exists to broaden the educational experience of the Texas A&M community by providing thought-provoking discussion on national and foreign policy issues.
Through our programs, we wish to educate the audience on matters of social interest and develop the global awareness of Texas A&M University Community while providing an environment for student development.
The series was started in 1982 when a group of MSC students felt that Texas A&M needed a forum where well-known figures could make appearances. Those students transformed their idea into reality by forming a charter and holding the first lecture. The program was initially called the MSC Endowed Lecture Series. The topic of the first lecture was entitled "The Future of the Western Alliance," and featured such notable speakers as Gerald Ford, Helmut Schmidt (former West German Chancellor), and Edward Heath (former British Prime Minister). The credibility and prestige of these initial speakers enabled the program to establish a high standard for future lectures.
In 1984 the program received an endowment from James E. Wiley, Sr. and A.P. Wiley, both of the Class of '46, and was renamed the Wiley Lecture Series. The brothers attended the lecture series in the spring of 1983 and were so impressed with "how these young people were able to put it all together" that they volunteered to donate $500,000 from proceeds of their business, Wiley Bros. General Contractors of Dallas. The principal reason for the brothers' rekindled interest in A&M student activities can be attributed to James Wiley, Jr. '71.
As a student, the younger Wiley was active in MSC programs and, after his graduation, served on the MSC Enrichment Fund Board. At his invitation, his father and uncle attended a lecture in the spring of 1983. In a July 1993 interview, James E. Wiley, Sr. stated, "My brother and I remembered how it was when we attended A&M and how those types of opportunities were not available then." He recalls that the student activity was the most appealing element of the series. Wiley describes the students' involvement as "nearly beyond comprehension, how the students ran the series," and declares that it is "amazing what the students do."
The Wileys believe that "the endowment has given students opportunities to use their talents, and what they do with these opportunities is up to them." The lecture series is not the only beneficiary of the Wiley family's generosity. In 1983 they endowed a Chair in Civil Engineering valued at over half a million dollars. Since then, the Wileys have contributed a President's Endowed Scholarship and a Sul Ross Scholarship and have donated funds to enhance the Sterling C. Evans library research facilities.
The Wiley Lecture Series is organized entirely by students. No other lecture series of this magnitude can make a similar claim. The selection of topics for the series is entirely at the students' discretion. Once a topic has been determined, the students select appropriate speakers and begin to make arrangements for their appearances. A source of pride for the Wiley representatives is the fact that the topics they choose, which are decided upon at least a year in advance, are generally viewed as major world policy issues.
The Wiley Lecture Series typically features some of the world's most celebrated experts. Past lecture panelists include former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Alexander Haig, and former British Prime Ministers Edward Heath, James Callaghan, and Margaret Thatcher. Such notable public personalities as ABC news correspondents Sam Donaldson and George Will, 60 Minutes co-editor Ed Bradley, and former press secretary to President Reagan, Larry Speakes, have also spoken at Series events.
In the weeks prior to the main lecture, the Wiley Lecture Series Committee presents a series of symposia that are designed to inform the public about the chosen topic. The symposia provide background information and opinions from scholars and other experts in the field.
The scope of the Wiley Lecture Series extends far beyond the confines of Texas A&M. While the program generally has an in-house audience of about 2,500 students and local citizens, it also receives extensive media coverage. Past years have seen the series featured on PBS markets across the nation.
Only the most qualified individuals are chosen to be on the Wiley staff, which generally consists of about forty people. Members are chosen based on their knowledge and experience in the areas of business and foreign policy. From this staff, seven to ten people are chosen to be members of an executive team that coordinates operations. The major activity of the Wiley staff is fund-raising. The Wiley endowment provides twenty-five percent of the necessary funds, while ticket sales and private donations account for the remainder.
Though many organizations spend a large percentage of their budget on administrative expenses, the Wiley Lecture Series has been able to minimize operational costs. Approximately eighty percent of the series' expenditures can be directly traced to speaker fees, with the remaining twenty percent attributable to operating expenses. Therefore, considering rising speaker fees and a limited budget, it is imperative that the students operate with a high degree of efficiency to preserve the series' tradition of success.
Overall, the students directly involved with the actual coordination of the series feel that many of the lessons they learn are ones that could not be taught in a classroom or read in a book. Trey Lary, 1992-93 chair of the Wiley Lecture Series, stated that "members of the student committee receive numerous opportunities for leadership and development" and that "one of the greatest skills that Wiley teaches is the ability to interact in a business setting." While the students affiliated with the series benefit from their direct involvement, the Texas A&M community also gains through exposure to the lecturers and their discussion of topics of world-wide interest.
In recent years, the Wiley Lecture Series has gone through many changes. Symposia have been broadened to include topics outside of the main program; the series has taken on issues of national policy, in addition to foreign policy; in 2000, a student liaison to the Bush Foundation and Library was added; and in 2001, Wiley Roundtable were offered for small group discussions on foreign policy topics. These changes have served to keep the Wiley Lecture Series at the forefront of meeting the needs of the Texas A&M Community.
Excerpted from The Memorial Student Center: A Look Inside, a Floco Unlimited Production.