Monday, November 29, 2021

Theater to curb crowding problems

September 28, 2000

More than 1,000 people were turned away from renowned Harvard Professor Stephen Jay Gould’s guest lecture earlier this month because the Wharton Center’s Pasant Theatre was filled to capacity.

University officials say that won’t happen again.

The second of five lectures for the McPherson Professorship lecture series has been moved from the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center to prevent overcrowding.

Depending on the turnout, Daniel Kleppner’s speech Wednesday will either be held at the Pasant Theatre or the much larger Wharton Center Great Hall. Officials plan to make a decision after learning more about how many people plan to attend.

Both halls would provide more space than the Kellogg Center Auditorium, which seats 300. Pasant Theatre holds 600 and the hall holds 2,000.

Kleppner, an MIT professor known for his contributions to physics, will give a speech titled “Impact of Quantum Physics on Everyday Life.”

The professorship was made possible by a $2 million donation from an anonymous donor who requested President M. Peter McPherson and his wife Joanne decide what to do with the money.

The McPhersons chose a series of science-based lectures.

Honors College Director Richard Fisher said he and other professorship coordinators decided to change the location to more adequately accommodate interest in the series.

“We know that a lot of the turnout was from students in classes where professors asked them to go,” Fisher said.

For Kleppner’s lecture, unlike Gould’s, faculty members will be contacted to see if they are encouraging their classes to attend, Fisher said.

“That will give us an important gauge,” he said. “We have some more flexibility this time, and we’ll try to adjust to the demand.”

Walter Bennenson, MSU distinguished professor of physics-astronomy and a professorship collaborator, said the Pasant Theatre should be the perfect size.

He doesn’t expect as many people at Kleppner’s lecture as there were at Gould’s, but he encourages students to attend and learn more about the importance of quantum physics.

“It’s the basis for all the modern technologies that we have become used to,” he said. “Although the title seems a little dry, he is extremely knowledgeable about what people know and might be interested in hearing.”

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