For over 30 years, The Nancy R. Chandler Visiting Scholars Program has been bringing some of the world’s most influential minds to Central Oregon. The program was established in 1985 by the former owner of the Bend Bulletin, Robert W. Chandler in honor of his wife, Nancy. Since that time the program continues the tradition of hosting great thinkers to the Bend community.
“Nancy would throw dinner parties for guests and people around the community,” said Jim Weaver, director of the Central Oregon Community College Foundation. “That was the idea of the endowment and the Visiting Scholars Program.”
The program is funded in part by an endowment left by the Chandler family which is managed by the COCC Foundation. Funding also comes from local sponsorships as well as pledges by both the Associated Students of Central Oregon Community College and the Associated Students of Cascades Campus, according to program director Karen Aylward.
After becoming program director in 2005, Aylward said she has seen the program flourish due to creative marketing and collaboration with various organizations. Since 2005, Aylward has brought over 90 speakers to COCC and the Bend community, often providing free admission to students and staff.
“I have to be a bit more of an opportunist,” Aylward said. “[I] write grants, make pitches, knock on doors. 50 percent of my time is spent raising money.”
Aylward brings a background that spans continents to her position, giving her a knowledge and appreciation for diverse guests.
“I’ve lived all over the world,” Aylward said. “I get very excited about the international speakers.”
This background has resulted in world renowned scholars like Arun Gandhi, participants of the 1961 Freedom Rides, sister Helen Prejean, and Nontombi Naomi Tutu, the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, all visiting Central Oregon.
“I want to bring the types of opportunities that you would expect at U of O or OSU to Bend,” Aylward said. “It takes you beyond the classroom. It can give you that extra spark towards your career.”
Events during the 2013-2014 academic year include the Muslim Journeys series, a conversation and workshop with author and physician Dr. Ira Byock, and the annual season of nonviolence discussion with lawyer and film maker Dawn Porter.
“It’s an opportunity to expand our awareness,” Weaver said. “You are exposed to words and concepts you would not have heard and seen otherwise.”
Photos by Darwin Ikard