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Neal A. Lester, Author and Expert in African American Literature and Pop Culture, to Speak at Bentley University Celebration Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., January 29, 2013
Bentley University welcomes Neal A. Lester as the keynote speaker at the 27th annual celebration breakfast in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on Tuesday, January 29, from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. Lester, associate vice president of humanities & arts for the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development and Foundation Professor of English at Arizona State University (ASU), is known for his teaching and scholarship in African American literary and cultural study. The program will also feature student presentations and a welcome by President Gloria Larson.
A professor of English at ASU since 1997, Lester’s work particularly focuses on children's literature, African American drama, African American folklore, African American images in American cinema, and black/white interracial intimacies in American culture. He has attracted scholarly and media attention for a range of topics, including Disney’s first African American princess, interracial intimacies in American pop music, and the gender and race politics of African Americans and hair during President Barack Obama’s campaign.
In his role as associate vice president in the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, Lester is charged with promoting and integrating humanities research throughout the university, an extension of the university-wide Project Humanities initiative he began and has directed since August 2010. The author of Ntozake Shange: A Critical Study of the Plays (1995) and Understanding Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents (1999), he is a popular public speaker and discussion facilitator with an extensive record of publications, lectures, editorships, and public interviews.
Previously at ASU, Lester served as dean of humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and as chair of the English Department. In both capacities he successfully advocated the importance of the humanities as central to contextualizing and adding meaning to the human experience. During his 20-year professional career he has received numerous teaching awards and recognitions including Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award (1993) and Distinguished Teaching Fellow Award (1996). He was named "Distinguished Public Scholar" by the Arizona Humanities Council (2001). In 2011, he was elected to a three-year term on the Executive Committee of the Association of Departments of English, and he has also served as chair of the Board of Directors for the Arizona Humanities Council. Lester earned an MA and PhD in English at Vanderbilt University, and a BA in English from State University of West Georgia.
Space is limited and seating by reservation only. Please direct questions to Jean Leccese 781.891.3475 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The program is sponsored by the President’s Office, Multicultural Center, and The Office of Alumni, Parents & Friends.
The Yawkey Foundations have recognized Bentley University’s longstanding commitment to service-learning and awarded the university $500,000 to educate students to effectively lead nonprofit organizations and expand student efforts to help community groups.