GW religion professor Harry Yeide spoke to students and community members Wednesday night in a Last Lecture series speech at the Western Presbyterian Church.
The series, in its second year, is organized by the Campus Ministry Committee and Western Presbyterian’s Rev. Laureen Smith.
Lecturers are given unlimited time to speak on any topic from childhood memories to the state of the nation, Smith said.
Yeide said he decided to use his lecture as a forum for comments he said he might make when he retires.
Yeide spoke on three themes: his life-changing experiences in Germany during World War II, his views on academic and intellectual life, and his personal experiences.
“I had many fears of Germans after growing up during World War II,” Yeide said. “When I went to Germany, my childhood anxieties came back but I had two experiences that changed that.”
Yeide told the story of an elderly German gardener who came running to thank him, as an American, for sending food to the German people during the post-war period. He also spoke of his best friend who had been a prisoner of war in an American camp.
“These two experiences brought me into contact with many people who quelled my anxieties and made me realize how foolish I had been,” he said.
On the topic of academic life, Yeide said he believes in universal truths, but intellectuals should look for new ways to discuss them to understand these axioms.
Yeide ended his lecture by discussing lessons he learned from his experiences.
“Life is essentially a gift,” he said. “The gifts in my life are
generous good health, meaningful work and being blessed with remarkable friends and colleagues.”
When Smith asked Yeide to give a lecture, she said Yeide accepted because he wanted the chance to reflect on life as a whole.
“I try to pull people from all different departments so that people get a good mix of speakers and topics,” Smith said.
Past lecturers in the series have included GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and David Grier, director of the University Honors Program.
“This series allows the community of faculty and students a chance to see the professors in a different light,” Smith said.
This semester lectures will be held the first Wednesday of every month and showcase a variety of speakers, such as theatre and dance Professor Maida Withers and geology Professor Richard Tollo.
“This first lecture turned out great.” Smith said, “I can’t wait for the rest of the lectures because I am positive they are going to be amazing.”