Springfield, Ohio — A year after introducing its groundbreaking Center for Civic and Urban Engagement, Wittenberg will welcome urban policy expert and author David Rusk as the featured speaker for the Witt Series-sponsored Opening Convocation of the university's 165th academic year. The event, which kicks off two days of innovative educational opportunities centered on urban issues, is scheduled to begin with pre-service music at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9, in Wittenberg's historic Weaver Chapel.
Rusk, an independent consultant on urban and suburban policy who has been described by the Baltimore Sun as the "hottest urban expert in the nation today," will speak about the critical importance of hospitals and universities to communities. Not coincidentally, Springfield is in the midst of a landscape-altering downtown construction project that will merge the city's two hospitals into one regional medical campus.
The Springfield Regional Medical Center project will effectively create a campus on each side of Buck Creek, with Wittenberg situated opposite the medical facility. Recently, Rusk has been documenting the critical role that college campuses and medical campuses play in anchoring urban cores, especially in Ohio. Rusk will also evaluate just how well Springfield and Clark County have done in implementing the recommendations he made in his previous Witt Series presentation in April 1997.
Wittenberg's Center for Civic and Urban Engagement is playing host to Rusk and is organizing additional activities, including classroom appearances and participation in a community luncheon, which will be followed by breakout sessions on various contemporary developments in the Springfield area and a dinner with community leaders.
"I think this will be a great chance for the Wittenberg community to come together with the Springfield community on a topic near and dear to both," said Stephanie McCuistion, director of the Center for Civic and Urban Engagement.
Rusk is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, where he was the Phi Beta Kappa outstanding undergraduate student in economics in 1962. After working with the Washington Urban League and the United States Department of Labor, he moved to Albuquerque, N.M., where he became a state legislator and then the city's mayor from 1977-81.
Since 1993, Rusk has spoken and consulted in more than 120 U.S. communities, and he has lectured on urban problems in England, Germany and Canada. In addition, he served as an adviser to the government of South Africa on metropolitan governance in the nation's three largest cities in 1997, and he was a visiting professor at the University of Amsterdam and Delft Technical University in The Netherlands in 2000.
Rusk has authored numerous articles in newspapers and periodicals, and he also spent 1992 as a guest scholar on urban affairs with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. He has authored three successful books: Cities Without Suburbs (1993), Baltimore Unbound (1995) and Inside Game/Outside Game (1999).
Warren Copeland, faculty director Wittenberg's Center for Civic and Urban Engagement, professor of religion, director of urban studies and mayor of the City of Springfield, sees Rusk's visit as key to connecting the Wittenberg community to Springfield at a crucial turning point in Springfield's history.
"David Rusk is a master at turning data into an analysis of the future of cities that citizens can understand," he said. "That is why he is so respected as an urban expert. Our students and our community will have the opportunity to learn from the best."
The Witt Series is a selection of cultural activities annually presented by Wittenberg University. All Series events are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Jeannine Fox, Series coordinator, at (937) 327-7470 or via e-mail.
Written by: Ryan Maurer