Madeline Gillette ‘19
Alicia Malone, an Assistant Professor at Merrimack, delivered this year’s “Last Lecture.” The Last Lecture started at Merrimack in 1999 and the idea is for a professor to give a lecture in front of a group of people as if it were the last lecture of their career.
At Merrimack, professors have the opportunity to present on a topic that is important to them in their professional careers, whether it’s based on years or research or creative projects. Malone researches jury decision-making in capital cases, challenges to the death penalty and inequalities in our criminal justice system.
“For me, being selected to give the last lecture this year is not only a unique opportunity to discuss my work with you, but to reflect on why I have chosen this path and do this work in the first place,” said Malone during her lecture.
Malone started the lecture by giving background on her life, her family life, the way she was raised, her education as well as her professional experiences, which has led her down a path of studying and teaching about the death penalty. Malone’s interest in the death penalty started around the same time her father passed away.
“I believe I began studying the death penalty because, at that time, I was grappling with issues of life and death. I couldn’t understand the purposeful taking of life. If my heart ached so bad having time to prepare for my father’s death, I could not imagine the pain felt by those who lost loved ones to senseless murder or those to a government-imposed sentence of death,” Malone said.
She continued to speak about the fact that the choice of giving someone the death penalty depends on many things that are not fair, such as one’s race, gender and social class. She said that two people who have committed similar crimes may or may not get the death penalty based on these things, which is fundamentally unfair.
Kevin Salemme, who is currently the Director of Media Instructional Services at Merrimack, delivered the Last Lecture in 2017. His lecture topic was mainly on photography and how people can tell a story through a picture.
Salemme spoke about how using photography can help someone understand the world. He said that doing this lecture forced him to look back on his whole career and look at it in retrospect, so he could teach others through what he has been through in the past as a photographer.
“Just as you can grow as a person, you can grow as a photographer. Looking back at past photos can help you grow more by showing you what you are capable of and what your next picture will look like. It can be the same thing as growing as a person and looking at your life in retrospect.”
The Last Lecture has been tradition at many colleges and universities all around the country, and it was started by Professor Randy Pausch of Carnegie Mellon, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He gave his real Last Lecture and wrote a book about his experience afterward. The book, “The Last Lecture,” became a New York Times bestseller.