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H. Lee Scott Speaker Series hosts Manning, others

Peyton Manning, Courtesy of the Bicknell Family Center of the Arts.

After presentations by several speakers of political fame, this year’s H. Lee Scott Speaker Series features an athletics perspective via recent Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Peyton Manning.

The event, entitled “A Conversation with Peyton Manning,” was held on Aug. 30 at 6:15 p.m. in the Linda and Lee Scott Performance Hall of the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts.

Manning played on several teams during his collegiate and professional football careers, including the University of Tennessee Volunteers, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Denver Broncos. He has been named the National Football League’s (NFL’s) Most Valuable Player five times. In addition to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Manning was inducted into the Tennessee Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016 and the Collegiate Football Hall of Fame.

Manning was selected as the speaker for the series through a process led by the office of University Advancement and its vice president, Kathleen Flannery.

“We have an advisory council of all the stakeholders on campus (that select the speaker),” Flannery said. “We have a representative from the student body. We have a representative from the faculty. We have representatives from university support staff (USS) and university professional staff (UPS). We all sit together, and we toss around all the suggestions that have been given to us over the course of time since our first inaugural speaker was here on campus. We’ve done the political side of things, and now we’ve touched on the athletic side of things, so we might go towards maybe business or science or technology; something in that area.”

The series itself began in 2015 after a $2.079 million donation by PSU alumni Linda and Lee Scott. The first speaker hosted by the series was Bill Clinton, followed by Mitt Romney in 2017 and Condoleezza Rice in 2019.

“I’ve enjoyed meeting all of (the speakers),” Flannery said. “For this speaker series, I think Condoleezza Rice was probably the most exciting to me, even though I enjoyed meeting Bill Clinton and I enjoyed meeting Mitt Romney. The breadth of topics Condoleezza Rice could speak to just blew me away.”

The overall theme of the H. Lee Scott Speaker Series is “An Examination of American Life.” Speakers for the series are chosen to give their viewpoints on American life through the perspective of their primary field, such as Peyton Manning and athletics.

“(The series) is supposed to represent the fabric of American life in contemporary society through politics, athletics, business, technology, science, health; all of those things that are relevant to our society,” Flannery said. “The series tries to have conversations around (these topics) through leaders in those fields. (The theme represents) the fabric of our life, so we get someone who can speak to where our culture has been, where we’re going, that kind of thing.”

Despite encouragement by the office of University Advancement, Manning chose not to have any media or press coverage before, during, or after his presentation.

“All of our other speakers have met with the Collegio ahead of time,” Flannery said. “This one has not allowed any media pre, during, or post. The reason for that is his (Manning’s) philosophy. What his people have said is that the experience that the students who get to meet with him and the people in the audience who paid for tickets have been specially invited to that particular event. If you share that (experience) with someone who has not come, then that kind of waters down the experience of the people in attendance. It’s more exclusive than inclusive. I would have preferred it to be more inclusive, but I also understand that philosophy.”

The next presentation in the H. Lee Scott Speaker Series is scheduled for 2023.

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