Stories of Change, Success at Honors Institute Day Two

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The second day of Phi Theta Kappa’s Honors Institute featured presentations from a ground-breaking Civil Rights activist and Donald Trump’s first “Apprentice.”

Second General Session Speaker Carlotta Walls LaNier with Lecture Sponsor Dr. Joan Fedor

Attendees first heard from Carlotta Walls LaNier, the youngest member of the Little Rock Nine. Her presentation was the Fedor Lecture, named for Dr. Joan Fedor and her late husband Robert.

Third General Session Keynote Speaker Bill Rancic

Dr. Fedor was a longtime advisor for the Phi Theta Kappa chapter at Highline College in Washington. She also served as a Regional Coordinator, and she is a member of the Honors Program Council. She has attended almost every Honors Institute and was among the first persons to endow Honors Institute Lectures. Robert Fedor was an engineer with Boeing.

The Little Rock Nine was the first wave of black students to begin the desegregation of American schools following the Supreme Court’s long-overdue determination that segregated schooling was unconstitutional. LaNier went on to graduate from Colorado State College — now the University of Northern Colorado — where she currently serves on the board of trustees, and she started her own real estate brokerage firm.

“It was a tough year, but challenges come into our lives so we can learn lessons,” LaNier told the crowd as she spoke of being a 14-year-old African-American student starting her sophomore year at the new, all-white Central High School in Arkansas.

LaNier and the other members of the Little Rock Nine were awarded the Spingarn Medal by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1958. She has served as president of the Little Rock Nine Foundation, a scholarship organization that seeks to promote and maintain equal rights in education for all. In 1999, she and the other members of the Little Rock Nine were honored by President Bill Clinton with a Congressional Medal of Honor.

“I thought her presentation was dynamic,” said Darin Baskin, a chapter advisor at Houston Community College in Texas. “I don’t think our students know enough about how education has evolved.

“Then, students wanted to go to school. Now, students have the right to, but they don’t want to go. So it was very good, especially for those students working on an Honors in Action project looking at education.”

The Third General Session gave the audience a glimpse at what it feels like to hear Donald Trump say, “You’re Hired.” Bill Rancic presented the Blank Lecture, named in honor of Robert Blank, a Phi Theta Kappa advisor at the State University of New York in Farmingdale and a New England/Middle States Regional Coordinator.

Blank, who now lives in Vermont, is a past chairman of the Phi Theta Kappa Board of Directors. He served for many years as Honors Institute Coordinator and was instrumental in the development of the role of the seminar groups.

Rancic was the first winner of NBC’s “The Apprentice.” He is an entrepreneur, a television personality and a restaurateur, and he is the best-selling author of You’re Hired: How to Succeed in Business and Life and Beyond the Lemonade Stand. He and his wife Giuliana also recently co-authored the best seller, I Do…Now What, and they chronicle their relationship on the top-rated reality show, “Guiliana and Bill.”

“In life, you’ve got to come up with creative ways to solve your problems,” Rancic said as he recounted his earliest business ventures, including cooking pancakes out of his grandmother’s kitchen for her friends when he was just 10 years old. “Sometimes — and some of you have probably already learned this — five minutes can mean the difference between winning and losing.

“You have to adapt; you have to react; you have to leave your comfort zone if you want to achieve what you want to in life.”

Rancic also serves as national spokesperson for the Starkey Hearing Foundation and for the Mercy Home for Boys & Girls.

“I thought he was an incredible speaker,” said first-time Honors Institute attendee Sara Guisinger, a member from Clark College in Washington. “He really gave us relevant information that everyone in the room could use.”

Wednesday’s Honors Institute activities will feature a historic tour in Philadelphia and an evening at the ballpark for a Phillies-Nationals game.