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The Last Lecture Series

Dr. Gentry

Dr. Gentry addressing the audience during the 2016 Last Lecture Series.

Dr. Kirby on stage at the Last Lecture.

Dr. Kirby fielding questions at the 2015 Last Lecture Series.

Dr. Guthrie

Dr. Guthrie with members of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity at the 2014 Last Lecture event.

The Last Lecture Award will be the only faculty award at Tarleton selected entirely by the student body. Students will be invited to nominate an outstanding professor who has inspired and influenced them in their education and outlook. The student body will consider the nominations and select a professor to give a lecture that addresses the question: “If you had but one final opportunity to address your students and colleagues, what would you share with your audience?”

The inaugural installment of the Last Lecture series at Tarleton was delivered on October 21, 2014. To begin the series, Dr. Chris Guthrie was asked by the Faculty Fellows to serve as the inaugural speaker. After this initial lecture by Dr. Guthrie, student government developed a voting process for future speakers.

History of the Last Lecture

In 1955, UCLA featured six lectures from distinguished UCLA figures such as philosophy professor Abraham Kaplan, chemistry professor Kenneth Trueblood and legendary basketball coach John Wooden. Each lecturer shared their own life philosophy through the lens of their discipline, interests and personal experiences. In the years since, the Last Lecture has become a tradition at many universities across the country. The tradition grew more popular in 2007 when Dr. Randy Pausch delivered a talk entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” at Carnegie Mellon University. Pausch’s lecture (and subsequent book, titled “The Last Lecture”) became famous as he’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had only months to live.


2017 Recipient, Dr. Rudy Tarpley

Dr. Rudy Tarpley

Dr. Rudy Tarpley, professor of agricultural education, from the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Sciences has been selected as the key note speaker for this year's Last Lecture. 

He earned degrees in Agricultural and Extension Education from New Mexico State University and Mississippi State University and has served on the faculty at Texas Tech University, Eastern New Mexico University, and Utah State University. A former high school agriculture teacher, Dr. Tarpley has spent his life preparing pre-service agriculture teachers for the teaching of agriculture, leadership, and career development. 

He grew up on a ranch in eastern New Mexico where he was active in FFA, 4-H, basketball, and track. He and Crystal have been married for 31 years and have two sons. Joshua and his wife Bethanne live in Lynchburg, Virginia and Matthew resides in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Tarpleys are active members at First Baptist Church Stephenville, Gideons International, and Kiwanis Club of Stephenville.

Dr. Tarpley has been recognized across the nation with a number of teaching and advising awards.

View Dr. Tarpley's presentation.

2016 Recipient, Dr. Jim Gentry

Dr. Gentry

Dr. Gentry was the 2016 recipient of the Last Lecture Award and therefore the keynote speaker for this annual series event. Dr. Gentry is an associate professor in the College of Education at Tarleton State University. Dr. James Gentry has conducted research investigating assistive technology’s impact on students with special learning needs. Also, several research projects specifically reviewed the use of multimedia tools to enhance literacy experiences.

Today, Dr. Gentry prepares future educators for 21st Century instructional responsibilities. Students experience the important implications of technology tools in several field-based PBL projects. From developing Weebly websites that scaffold pre-service teacher instruction in the field to the use of Google tools and Green Screen technology for collaborative lesson planning, students in his classes apply 21st Century tools to enhance the use of research pedagogic practices.

View Dr. Gentry's presentation.

2015 Recipient, Dr. Jim Kirby

Dr. Jim Kirby

Dr. James C. (Jim) Kirby was the faculty member awarded the Last Lecture Award in 2015. Dr. Kirby joined the Tarleton faculty in 1983 as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics. Since his arrival, he has taught undergraduate courses including algebra, trigonometry, probability, statistics, calculus, non-continuous mathematics, and mathematical modeling and graduate courses including operations research and optimization. Dr. Kirby received tenure and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1989 and received a promotion to Professor in 1995.

Dr. Kirby, a native Texan, received his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Tarleton State University, and his Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy from New Mexico State University. He has been married to the former Anita Castleman for thirty years. They have three children, Josh and wife Katie with granddaughter Adalynn, Chad, and Amanda and husband Justin.

View Dr. Kirby's presentation.

2014 Recipient, Dr. Chris Guthrie

Dr. Chris Guthrie

Dr. Guthrie has been the recipient of numerous honors, awards, fellowships and research grants during his tenure at Tarleton, including serving as a faculty fellow for the Center for Instructional Innovation, recipient of the Minnie Stevens Piper Outstanding Professor Award for Teaching Excellence and the Jack and Louise Arthur Excellence in Teaching Award, the O.A. Grant Excellence in Teaching Award and The Texas A&M University System Regents Professor Award, among others. Members of the Faculty Fellows selected Dr. Guthrie to give the inaugural Last Lecture. Just weeks before his passing, more than 600 current and former students, faculty and staff and family members gathered to hear his hour-long talk focusing on the Roman Empire, in which he encouraged everyone to “be awake, don’t believe everything you are told.”

View Dr. Guthrie's delivery of the inaugural Last Lecture.